A divided 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 5 ruled in favor of two middle school students who wore “I [HEART] Boobies” bracelets to school in support of breast cancer awareness. The court said the school district violated their free speech rights by banning the bracelets and suspending the girls.
Kayla Martinez and Brianna Hawk, seventh and eighth graders, respectively, at Easton Area Middle School in 2010, bought the rubber bracelets from the Keep a Breast Foundation with their mothers, in order to commemorate family members and friends they’d lost to breast cancer, according to the opinion.
After a few weeks of teachers noticing female students wearing the bracelets, according to the opinion, the school decided to prohibit bracelets containing the word “boobies,” although it encouraged students to wear other items in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, such as the traditional pink ribbons.
Martinez and Hawk were ordered to remove their bracelets on the school’s Breast Cancer Awareness Day. They refused and were suspended. The entire school district then banned the bracelets.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania sued the school district in November 2010 on behalf of Martinez and Hawk. In April 2011, a federal judge enjoined the school from enforcing the ban, according to the ACLU, and the full 3rd Circuit agreed to hear the case – a move that signals an important case.
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