Easton school must allow ‘I (heart) boobies’ bracelets

The decision marks the first time a federal appeals court has ruled student commentary on political or social issues is protected by the First Amendment.
The decision marks the first time a federal appeals court has ruled student commentary on political or social issues is protected by the First Amendment. Credit: Dennis Vu Photography

In what the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is calling a “groundbreaking decision,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on Monday upheld an injunction preventing the Easton Area School District from enforcing a ban on breast cancer awareness bracelets that read, “I (heart) boobies! (KEEP A BREAST).”

The decision marks 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.

“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,” ACLU of Pennsylvania executive director Reggie Shuford said in a statement.

“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.”

The ACLU of Pennsylvania first filed the suit in November 2010 on behalf of Easton Area Middle School students Kayla Martinez and Brianna Hawk.

The girls, then seventh and eight graders, respectively, were suspended for wearing the “I (heart) boobies” rubber bracelets on the school’s Breast Cancer Awareness Day.

A federal judge last April issued an injunction preventing the school from enforcing the ban after finding it violated the students’ First Amendment right to free speech.

But the school appealed the injunction, arguing the bracelets ban should be upheld because the slogan could be misinterpreted as “lewd” and might offend some members of the school community or disrupt school activities.

The appeals court, in what the ACLU called “a rare move reflecting the important and complex First Amendment issues in the case,” granted an en banc review so the full court could weigh in, rather than the three-judge panel that typically hears each case.

Attorney Mary Catherine Roper of the ACLU of Pennsylvania in February argued the case before 14 court of appeals judges.

Nine of those judges agreed the Easton Area School District violated the First Amendment when it suspended the bracelet sporting students.

“The majority’s opinion recognizes that teens, like adults, must be free to speak and learn about important issues that affect them – even issues, like breast cancer, that make school administrators uncomfortable,” Roper said in a statement.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Reddit boosts news capabilities in social media turf…

By Jennifer SabaNEW YORK (Reuters) - Reddit, a website with a retro-'90s look and space-alien mascot that tracks everything from online news to celebrity Q&As,…

Local

New York joins accord to strengthen popular vote…

New York State joined a nationwide effort that would gives the state's 29 electoral votes for president to the candidate who wins the national popular vote.

National

Missouri man charged with sexually torturing five women

A Missouri man has been charged with raping and torturing five women in a St. Louis-area apartment over several years, law enforcement officials said on Tuesday.

Local

Report: NYPD disbands controversial Muslim surveillance program

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the police unit behind NYPD's Muslim surveillance program was disbanded.

Television

'Orphan Black's' Jordan Gavaris talks Felix's Season 2…

Jordan Gavaris plays heroically helpful foster sibling Felix to main clone Sarah on "Orphan Black." We talked to him about what’s ahead for him in…

Going Out

Accomplice Tour: New York (Spoiler Alert)

When I signed up for the Accomplice show tour, I had no idea what I was in for. But every grimy job comes with a great reward.

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, April 15: 'New Girl,'…

'New Girl' Nick and Jess are hiding their breakup from the other loft residents. And Winston passes the police academy exam! That guy needed some…

Television

'Orphan Black' is back with 'crazy clone shenanigans'

“Orphan Black” is the little show that could. It had a few things working against it: a sci-fi premise, attracting an audience who had never…

NBA

Nets miss chance to clinch No. 5 seed…

Nets head coach Jason Kidd expressed little concern after a 109-98 loss to the Knicks, but others seemed to disagree.

NFL

Jets confident despite Chris Johnson leaving with no…

Jets fans clamored for a playmaker on offense all offseason. It looked like they were going to land that player on Tuesday when Chris Johnson…

NBA

Knicks, Nets rivalry never materialized despite national attention

When the NBA schedule was released, the league anticipated an intense rivalry between the Nets and Knicks with all four games slated for national TV.

NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could…

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could the Mavericks surprise?

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Personalize your massage at a private practice

CityTouch customizes spa treatments to meet client's needs.

Style

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show moving to England

It will still broadcast on CBS this fall.