Board member not ‘happy’ with Supreme Court appeals decision but ‘comfortable’

i heart boobies bracelet
Credit: Dennis Vu Photography for Unleashed Media

One Easton Area School District board member said that while the council as a whole was not necessarily happy with the decision to file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2010 I (heart) boobies bracelet case, they were comfortable with it.

“The evidence presented to us by the solicitor showed us that doing the appeal would bring the most benefit to our district,” said Baron Vanderburg, one of seven board members who voted to appeal to the high court after a federal court did not uphold the district’s decision to ban the bracelets.

Two girls, aged 12 and 13, in 2010 were suspended by the district for wearing the rubber bracelets, which are intended to promote breast cancer awareness. The school board at the time — only three of the current nine members sat on the board then — claimed they are of a lewd nature.

The students and their parents fought the decision at the Circuit Court of Appeals, which had ruled in favor of the girls.

In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld a previous injunction preventing the school district from enforcing a ban on the bracelets. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania had called that a “groundbreaking decision.”

The decision marked the first time a federal appeals court has ruled student commentary on political or social issues is protected by the First Amendment, even if that speech contains language that some could consider lewd.

This week, the school board voted 7-1 to allow district solicitor John Freund to file a petition to the Supreme Court. Freund did not immediately return a request for comment; however Vanderburg said those in attendance at the Tuesday school board meeting had mixed views on the decision.

“A lot of the comments are pointing toward the district letting go of the case and not pursuing an appeal,” he said. “At the same time, we’ve also had some people who have said, ‘Right on.’”

Vanderburg said the school board has been doing damage control since the case began three years ago. “We’re … fixing a situation from a long time ago. We are doing what we feel is necessary for the district.”

The lone board member who voted no against the appeal told newspapers it should be let go. Vanderburg agreed, saying he’d “love to see this thing go away,” but said it was made clear to board members that the district needed to go through with the appeal process.

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