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Breast Cancer Awareness Bracelet Case Heard by Third Circuit

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I heart boobies wristbandsWhat could be so controversial about breast cancer awareness bracelets that warrants a lawsuit about them?

In Pennsylvania’s Easton Middle School, two girls wore such bracelets from the Keep a Breast Foundation, which said, “I ♥ Boobies,” and school administrators banned the bracelets and suspended the students. A federal district court ruled that the school district was wrong for doing so, and the case was recently heard by an en banc panel (all 14 judges) of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

At issue in the case is whether the the First Amendment rights of Brianna Hawk and Kayla Martinez were violated by the restriction on the bracelets.

John Freund, an attorney for the Easton Area School District, calls the case a matter of “common sense and trying to keep a certain level of decorum in the educational setting.” The school district maintains that the bracelets can have a “sexual interpretation,” which meant they could ban them.

But Mary Catherine Roper of the ACLU believes “[b]oth common sense and the first amendment say girls get to talk about their breast and their health.”

Roper further stated, “When you have girls who are talking about the importance of their own bodies, the importance of breast cancer, are you going to shut that down because there might be some boy somewhere giggling?”

Easton Middle School principal Angela DiVetro, a breast cancer survivor, has said there was more than just giggling, however. “We had incidences where students were becoming physical. Boys were touching girls inappropriately. I stopped it. I banned it before it would go further.”

The United States Supreme Court has said that schools can limit student speech when it is lewd, vulgar, and offensive.

The trial court had ruled in this case that the school district was enjoined from prohibiting certain bands, including the one at issue in this case.

A similar lawsuit in Wisconsin saw the federal district court side with the school district in banning the ‘I [heart] Boobies] bracelets, and another such bracelet was confiscated in a middle school in Utah.

What do you think of this case? Should students be allowed to wear these bands?

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February 23rd, 2013 at 10:12 am

Posted in First Amendment

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