Is the Keep A Breast Foundation’s “I (heart) Boobies!” slogan too vulgar for middle school aged children? A Pennsylvania school district thought so. Their appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court Monday after two students sued the Easton Area School District back in 2010.
In 2010, two girls, then ages 12 and 14, refused their principal’s orders to takeoff the bracelets they were wearing in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Day. The girls, Kaylay Martinez and Brianna Hawk, filed suit after being suspended from class and banned from attending the winter dance.
“I am happy we won this case, because it’s important that students have the right to stand up for a cause and try to make a difference. We just wanted to raise awareness about breast cancer,” Hawk, who was in eighth grade at the time, said in a statement distributed by the ACLU.
The justices left in place a federal appeals court ruling from August that found the bracelets were not “plainly lewd,” nor had they caused a disruption. The lower court sided with two students who sued the Easton Area School District in 2010 with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The principle here is that even kids talk about important things, and when they talk about important things, that’s what we should be encouraging,” Mary Catherine Roper, an attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said Monday. “Kids should be able to talk about things that matter to them in language that is both respectful and familiar to them.”
The district’s solicitor, John Freund, said he was disappointed the Supreme Court won’t hear the case.
The ruling by the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “robs educators and school boards of the ability to strike a reasonable balance between a student’s right to creative expression” and districts’ responsibility to make sure schools are “free from sexual entendre and vulgarity,” Freund said.
Earlier Supreme Court rulings give schools the right to restrict vulgar speech or speech that is likely to cause “substantial disruption.” Roper said districts still have that ability.
“In a situation where these bracelets were actually causing problems, school officials could take action,” Roper said. “This is all based on a case where they weren’t sparking inappropriate behavior or inappropriate comments. Schools always have the authority to keep order and prevent those things from happening.”
Freund predicted the Supreme Court would eventually revisit students’ free-speech rights.
“Unfortunately, it will take more lawsuits, more attorneys’ fees and more chaos in the classroom,
” he said.
The facts of this article were contributed by the Associated Press.
Is The Keep A Breast Foundation’s Slogan Too Vulgar for Middle School?