U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Pennsylvania ‘boobies’ bracelet case

By, Michael Muskal (LA Times)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to get involved in a Pennsylvania case over whether students can wear a bracelet saying “I (heart) Boobies!” as part of a breast cancer awareness campaign.

By refusing to consider the case, the nation’s top court left in place a lower appeals court decision striking down a ban on the bracelets imposed by Easton Area School District, which argued that the bracelets were lewd.

“The First Amendment protects schools as a space where students are free to discuss important issues like breast cancer and talk about their bodies in positive terms,” stated Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, which represented the students. “The court’s decision today is an important reminder to school administrators that they can’t punish students for speaking out just because their speech might be uncomfortable or misunderstood.”

“I am happy we won this case, because it’s important that students have the right to stand up for a cause and try to make a difference. We just wanted to raise awareness about breast cancer,” stated Briana Hawk, who was in eighth grade at Easton Area Middle School when she was suspended, along with 7th-grader Kayla Martinez, for wearing the rubber bracelets on the school’s Breast Cancer Awareness Day in the fall of 2010.

Easton was one of several school districts around the country to ban the bracelets, which are distributed by the nonprofit Keep a Breast Foundation of Carlsbad, Calif.

In a statement the school district said it was disappointed in the ruling.

“Local school authorities need the ability to enforce dress codes and maintain reasonable decorum of the manner of expression in an educational environment, while respecting the legitimate rights of students to express themselves,”  the district’s attorney, John Freund III, stated.