After an entire year of deliberation, a U.S. appeals court ruled today that an Easton, Pennsylvania school district cannot ban “I (heart) Boobies!” bracelets.
The bracelets are distributed by the non-profit Keep a Breast Foundation and are intended to promote breast cancer awareness amongst young people.
The court ruled that since the bracelets are not objectively lewd and are intended to promote a positive cause, the school would not be allowed to ban them.
“Because the bracelets here are not plainly lewd and because they comment on a social issue, they may not be categorically banned," the court said in a 9-5 decision.
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The case began a year ago when two middle school students, Brianna Hawk and Kayla Martinez, filed suit after being suspended for defying their school’s ban on the bracelets. When a lower court judge ruled in favor of the girls, the school district appealed the ruling, eventually brining the case to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The American Civil Liberties Union represented the girls in the case. The ACLU legal team argued that students have a right to discuss important social issues, even when that discussion is prompted by bracelet slogans.
"It explicitly says school children talk about important things, and when they (do) ... that's the kind of speech we want to protect and promote," said Mary Catherine Roper, an ACLU lawyer working on the case.
If the school district wishes to appeal the court’s ruling, the case would go to the U.S. Supreme Court. District solicitor John Freud says that although the school disagrees with the ruling, they’re not sure it is their place to take their case to the nation’s highest court.
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"Middle school is a witch's brew of hormones and curiosity," Freud said, calling the bracelets “cause-based marketing energized by sexual entendres.” But Freud questioned whether the Easton District has the duty to "to make constitutional law for everyone else.”
The district has 90 days to decide whether they will appeal the court’s decision.