Can Your School Punish You For Your Posts?
Girls' Life magazine|October/November 2021
We all have days when we get on social media and just vent. But here’s the very surprising truth about just how far some schools are going to control what students share on their feeds…and what you can do about it.
By Amanda Montell

Imagine something happens at school that upsets you: Maybe a teacher gave you a less-than-stellar grade or you didn’t get the part you wanted or your coach benched you for the long-awaited semifinal game. So you take to social media to rant.

From your bedroom, you record a storytime video lamenting what happened. It gets kind of heated (maybe a couple four-letter words come out) but whatever, you’re just speaking your mind, right? And then you hit post.

The next morning, your video goes viral… in a not-so-good way. It spreads across your whole school, finally making its way into the hands of administrators. They decide to punish you for causing a “disruption.”

Suddenly, you feel like a YouTuber apologizing for some bad joke you tweeted. Except you’re not a celebrity, you’re a student—and it’s not your fans who are trying to cancel you, it’s your school.

This isn’t just a hypothetical: A similar story actually happened to former high school cheerleader Brandi Levy, who was 14 when she got suspended from her JV cheer squad after posting a profanity-laced Snapchat, complaining about not making varsity.

Levy and her parents thought the school went too far and decided to take legal action. Fast-forward four years later to this past summer when the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, whose job was to decide: Can your school cancel you for what you say *off* campus?

FREE SPEECH, EXPLAINED

“Freedom of speech” is an American right according to the Constitution’s First Amendment. And though it may sound like a pretty straightforward concept, it’s actually somewhat hazy, especially for students. In broad strokes, free speech entitles U.S. citizens to express themselves without fear of governmental punishment or intervention.

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