The Supreme Court last week issued a powerful blow against cancel culture.
Although the decision in Mahanoy School District v. B.L. seemingly involves only a school district’s right to punish a student for an expletive-laden social media tirade, the ruling sends a strong message to schools that they may not punish students for off-campus speech that offends some members of the school community.
Disappointed that she was cut from the varsity cheer team, Pennsylvania high school student Brandi Levy sent a weekend message to her Snapchat “friends” that showed her and a friend giving the middle finger to the camera with the text: “F*** school f*** softball f*** cheer f*** everything.”
The school district believed it had a right to punish the student for sending a “disruptive” message that “targeted” the school. And so, it barred Levy from high school athletics for one year.
At first blush, the school district’s position seemed reasonable to many. Levy’s snap was, after all, a crude and impulsive reaction — not a well-considered expression of a political viewpoint. And student athletes are often held to a higher standard of conduct than other students.