'I Heart Boobies' Bracelet Ban Violates Right To Free Speech; Teens Suspended For Wearing Slogan On Breast Cancer Awareness Day Win Court Case
Aug 05, 2013 02:08 PM EDT
Two teenage girls won a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit case after they were suspended from their middle school for wearing "I [heart] boobies" bracelets in support of a popular breast cancer awareness campaign.
Brianna Hawk, then 15, and Kayla Martinez, then 14, wore the rubber bracelets to promote the Save A Breast Foundation, but were suspended because the slogan was "lewd and disruptive," The Washington Post reported.
The court upheld a lower court decision, claiming the bracelets called attention to a relevant social issue and did not believe the statement would disrupt the school.
The American Civil Liberties Union helped the girls fight their case.
ACLU lawyer Mary Catherine Roper said the outcome supports "the rights of students to discuss important topics."
U.S. District Judge Mary McLaughlin in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a preliminary injunction against the girl's suspension in April of 2011, Leigh Valley Live reported.
Easton Area School District solicitor John Freund claimed the bracelets had already been banned before Hawk and Martinez wore them to school on breast cancer awareness day.
Freund said the court "failed to trust the school administrators with decision-making powers over what could or could not cause a problem in local schools," according to Leigh Valley Live. The school believed students could draw sexual meaning from the phrase.
A male student had told one of the girls "I heart your boobies," after finding out about the bracelets, Freund argued.
"The dress code prohibits clothing that has a sexual double entendre," he said.
Some of the judges made their opinions clear during court hearings.
"I don't find the sexual meaning in the word 'boobies,'" Chief Judge Theodore McKee, said.
Roper said the bracelets conveyed a meaningful social message, and sexual innuendos were not implied.
"I think 'boobies' is always innocuous," Roper said. "This is a word these girls use with their grandmothers."
The Save a Breast Foundation, which distributes the "I Heart Boobies" inscribed bracelets, works to bring cancer awareness to the generations of the future.
"Our mission is to eradicate breast cancer for future generations. We provide support programs for young people impacted by cancer and educate people about prevention, early detection, and cancer-causing toxins in our everyday environment," the foundation stated on their website.