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Supreme Court Allows ‘Boobies’ Wristbands

March 10, 2014
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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The U.S. Supreme Court has decided it has better things to do than to hear arguments about whether middle-school students should be allowed to wear breast cancer awareness wristbands that carry a mildly naughty message.

The court on Monday let stand a lower-court ruling that blocked a ban by the Easton Area School District in Easton, Pennsylvania, of rubber wristbands that read “i ♥ boobies!”

A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the two students challenging the school district’s ban, said she and the students were relieved. The lawyer, Mary Catherine Roper, also spoke for just about all of us (except, apparently, the school district) when she added the following:

We didn’t think this was a case for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Roper was quoted by the Morning Call newspaper, based in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The case originated in 2010. We’ve visited it a couple of times, most recently three years ago.

It started when Kayla Martinez, then 12, and Brianna Hawk, then 13, wore the bracelets in October 2010 despite a schoolwide ban. The school suspended them. The ACLU sued on their behalf. A U.S. District Court judge ruled that the ban violated the girls’ right to freedom of expression. In a 9-5 decision, the Third U.S. Court of Appeals agreed, saying the bracelets were not “plainly lewd” and hadn’t caused a disruption.

The Supreme Court allowed that decision to stand. The wristbands came from the Keep A Breast Foundation of Carlsbad, California, which argued that it used the provocative language “to speak to young people in their own voice.” The school district, and its insurance company, will apparently have to pay the students’ legal fees, which the foundation said totaled $107,000.

Roper said the decision didn’t stop school districts from banning truly disruptive clothing or accessories. “In a situation where these bracelets were actually causing problems, school officials could take action,” Roper told the Associated Press. “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.”

The school district’s lawyer, John Freund, harrumphed that those darn kids weren’t really interested in freedom of speech or raising awareness of breast cancer.

“These kids bought these bracelets because they wanted to fit in,” Freund said. “The breast cancer excuse is something that was implanted into them by their mothers when they came home and found out that the bracelets were prohibited.”

He sounded awfully grumpy for someone who has made a lot of money arguing this case for three and a half years. Perhaps he was just disappointed that he wasn’t going to be able to make his plea on the Supreme stage.

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