WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from a school that tried to ban students from wearing “I (heart) Boobies!” bracelets to promote breast cancer awareness, ending a case that began more than three years ago with the suspension of two middle-school girls who refused a principal’s order to take them off.
The case started in 2010 when two girls, then aged 12 and 13, challenged the ban. Kayla Martinez and Brianna Hawk said they were trying to promote awareness of the disease at their middle school in Easton, Pennsylvania. They wore the bracelets on their school’s Breast Cancer Awareness Day — in defiance of a ban announced a day earlier — and refused to take them off. The girls filed suit after being suspended from class.
The justices left in place a U.S. appeals court ruling that found the bracelets were not “plainly lewd,” nor had they caused a disruption.
“The principle here is that even kids talk about important things, and when they talk about important things, that’s what we should be encouraging,” Mary Catherine Roper, an American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania lawyer, said. “Kids should be able to talk about things that matter to them in language that is both respectful and familiar to them.”
The school district’s lawyer, John Freund, said the ruling “robs educators and school boards of the ability to strike a reasonable balance between a student’s right to creative expression” and districts’ responsibility to make sure schools are “free from sexual entendre and vulgarity.”