Student Free Speech Makes it to the Supreme Court

Monday, May 10, 2021


Student Free Speech

Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions below. To read the transcript of the video above, click here.

Fourteen-year-old high school freshman Brandi Levy had just failed to make the varsity cheerleading squad and to get the softball team position she wanted when she angrily posted a Snapchat story with many uses of the F-word. As a result, her school officials kicked her off the junior varsity cheerleading team. Levy’s father ended up suing the school district, and a judge ordered Brandi back on the team. 

  • This continues a debate on free speech and disciplinary measures schools are able to take. In this case, Levy posted the picture not on school grounds and on a Saturday. 
  • The case eventually made it to the Supreme Court. Schools administrators and the Biden administration say a school’s jurisdiction extends to off-campus speech, and is sometimes necessary such as in instances of cyber-bullying. 
  • Francisco Negron, the chief legal officer for the National School Boards Association, says that the way students communicate on social media today can have a tremendous impact on student safety and emotional harm.
  • Justice Brett Kavanaugh said that Levy was just blowing off steam like millions of other kids do when they’re disappointed. He said it didn’t seem like the punishment was tailored to the offense. 


Discussion: Student Free Speech

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who is the story about?
  • What did Levy do that got her kicked off the cheerleading team?
  • Where has the case recently been heard? 
  • Why is this case important to students everywhere?
  • How does this case impact free speech in and out of schools?

Then have students share with the class or through a Learning Management System (LMS).

Focus questions:

  1. Do you think that schools should be able to punish students for what they say outside of school? Why or why not?
  2. How can posting something on social media get you in trouble later in life? Do you think it’s fair that our social media posts can impact school and job prospects throughout our lives?

Media Literacy: The video offers opinions from justices, lawyers and officials. Are there any voices that you think were missing? How could the story have been different with  sources like Levy and her father?

Dig Deeper: 

  1. Check out this NewsHour EXTRA lesson plan on the dilemma of protecting free speech.
  2. This daily video explores the ways high schools and colleges are cracking down on students’ online activity.

Written by Rebecca Shaid, EXTRA’s intern and Northwestern University student, and EXTRA’s Vic Pasquantonio

Republished with permission from PBS Newshour Extra.