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Students can wear ‘Boobies’ bracelet, Supreme Court rejects school district case

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Chalk up a win to “I (heart) Boobies” bracelet-wearing students across the country, as the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a Pennsylvania school district that attempted to ban the breast cancer awareness garb, according to a report today from the Associated Press.

The decision essentially puts an end to a three-year-long legal battle between the Easton Area School District and two of the district’s students, Kayla Martinez and Brianna Hawk, aided by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The justices’ rejection leaves in place a federal court’s decision from August in which the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled that the bracelets did not cause a disruption and were not “plainly lewd.”

With the ACLU’s help, Martinez and Hawk, then ages 12 and 13, successfully sued the school district after being suspended from class and barred from attending a school dance when they defiantly wore the bracelets during Breast Cancer Awareness Day despite a school ban on the apparel.

Precedent has given schools the right to restrict vulgar or disruptive speech, but ACLU lawyer Mary Catherine Roper said this case didn’t meet that scrutiny.

“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.”

John Freund, the school district’s solicitor, said that he’s disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision because the federal court ruling “robs educators and school boards of the ability to strike a reasonable balance between a student’s right to creative expression” and districts’ obligation to keep schools “free from sexual entendre and vulgarity.”

In the end, however, Roper said the takeaway from this case is that students should be able encouraged to and have the right to “talk about important things.”

“Kids should be able to talk about things that matter to them in language that is both respectful and familiar to them,” Roper said.

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