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
News

Easter Egg hunt horror as skydiver plummets to…

A FAMILY Easter egg hunt ended in horror when a skydiver plummeted to his death in a New York garden after his parachute failed to…

News

Boston Marathon 2014 on high alert, Red Sox…

One year on from the horrific Boston Marathon bombings a ring of steel has been thrown around today's race, and a city stands defiant against…

News

Boston Strong: One year on from Boston Marathon…

  For more than a century the Boston Marathon has been an even centred around sportsmanship, endurance and athleticism, but there's no denying the face…

Local

Monday is the deadline to register for Pennsylvania…

If residents want to vote in the May primary, which includes a vote for a new City Council member, today is the deadline to register.

Television

‘Mad Men’ recap: Season 7, Episode 2, ‘A…

Peggy and Lou are horrible, Bert's racist, Don is honest(ish) and Roger and Pete are frustrated. "A Day's Work" not quite worthy of "This Will Be Our Year."

Television

'Game of Thrones' recap: Season 4, Episode 3,…

The problem with the devil you know is that ignoring them doesn’t mean they simply lie in wait. It allows them time to do things…

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

NHL

Ray Emery steps up in Flyers’ Game 2…

Sure, he allowed two goals in the Rangers’ first four shots Sunday afternoon, but it’s about how you start, not how you finish.

NHL

Flyers come from behind, even series with Rangers

The Flyers overcame a two-goal deficit to get a much-needed win at Madison Square Garden Sunday.

MLB

Phillies get set for four against the Dodgers

The Phillies will face tough starting pitching out west against the Dodgers this week.

MLB

Phillies notebook: Cole Hamels returns this week

The Phillies should receive a big boost when Cole Hamels returns during the Dodgers series.

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.