May 7, 2021 | OPINION | By Emma Logan | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian
In 2017, Pennsylvania teenager Brandi Levy found herself disappointed when she did not make the varsity teams of either softball or cheerleading at her high school. Frustrated, she took to Snapchat and posted a picture of her middle finger accompanied by the words, “Fuck school, Fuck softball, Fuck cheerleading, Fuck everything.”
Levy finds herself in the Supreme Court this week. After her post found its way to the school’s cheerleading coach through another student with access to Levy’s Snapchat story, she was suspended from the Junior Varsity team she held a spot on for the rest of the year.
In response, Levy’s family sued the Mahanoy Area School District for infringing upon her First Amendment rights. The court then ruled in her favor claiming that the 1969 Supreme Court Case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District set a precedent preventing public education institutions from disciplining students for off-campus action.
However, Mahanoy Area School District asked that the Court of Appeals case be brought before the Supreme Court to clarify the boundaries of this precedent.
Frankly, I don’t think there is any adolescent active on social media in America who hasn’t seen similar sentiments posted by their peers at some point. While vulgar and simply unnecessary, these words aren’t shocking.
So, who is right? What example should this experience serve for young people around the country? Did the school take unconstitutional action? While the Supreme Court will have to determine the latter, one must wonder if this case is even needed.
As someone who played varsity sports all four years of my own high school career, I know that telling my coach to “fuck themselves” would have resulted in a solid season on the bench.
I understand the argument that schools shouldn’t take action against students for “off-campus” activities; however, the importance of maintaining a good relationship with those you report to should not be overlooked.
If you tell your math teacher you hate them, you may not get expelled, but you probably won’t get an A. If you tell your boss that they are ugly, don’t expect a promotion.
Levy was not suspended from school. This disciplinary action did not show up on her academic transcript. She was simply told she could not participate on the team for the rest of the year, which was a decision made at the coach’s discretion. In turn, she played the First Amendment card.
This is not to say that her constitutional rights were not violated. I am not a constitutional lawyer, and it is possible that when the professionals get into the weeds of it, an important clarification on the rights of young people within our academic institutions will come from this case.
Nevertheless, Levy is not a martyr. Unlike the plaintiff of the infamous 1969 student rights case, she wasn’t protesting a global injustice. Levy simply talked shit online and faced the normal social consequences of her action. She could have accepted the situation and tried out again next year. Instead, she and her family decided to cry “First Amendment.”
We will have to wait and see the outcome of the court case within the next few weeks to see exactly what legacy this conflict will leave behind within our country’s justice system. Yet, whether the result does provide some monumental reaffirming of individual freedom or not, one must ask if this whole thing was altogether avoidable.
Fuck The Catalyst. Fuck Colorado College. Fuck everything. Please continue to let me publish.