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
Local

Two young children killed in deadly Queens fire

Two 4-year-old children died after a blaze at their Far Rockaway home on Saturday night. The Queens fire injured three others, including a third sibling.

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

NBA

Deron Williams leads Nets over Raptors in Game…

The Nets traveled to a raucous Air Canada Centre but came out with an important Game 1 victory over the Raptors.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

Parenting

How to parent without gender stereotypes in a…

Christia Spears Brown, Phd. author of "Parenting beyond Pink & Blue" gives advice on raising kids free of gender stereotypes.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.