Lehigh Valley

Federal court strikes down ban on breast cancer awareness bracelets

Easton school district had suspended girls for wearing 'I (heart) Boobies!' bracelets

Court breaks ban on boobie bracelets

PHILADELPHIA - A U.S. appeals court won't let a Lehigh Valley school district ban "I (heart) Boobies!" bracelets.

In a novel case involving student free speech, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court has rejected claims that the slogan is lewd and disruptive.

The court said the bracelets, designed to promote breast cancer awareness among young people, involve a relevant social issue, and are not likely to cause disruptions at school.

The split ruling Monday is a victory for two Easton Area School District girls who challenged the school rule with help from the American Civil Liberties Union.

ACLU lawyer Mary Catherine Roper said the ruling supports the rights of students to discuss important topics.

A lawyer for the district said he could not immediately comment.

The ruling upholds a lower court decision.

The ACLU originally filed suit in November 2010 on behalf of Kayla Martinez and Brianna Hawk, then seventh and eighth graders at Easton Middle School.

The girls were suspended for wearing the rubber bracelets on the school's Breast Cancer Awareness Day.

In April 2012, Judge Mary McLaughlin of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pa. ruled that EASD's ban violated the girls' First Amendment right to free speech and issued an injunction preventing the school from enforcing its ban.

Monday's ruling is the first time a federal court of appeals has ruled that student speech that is understood as commenting on political or social issues is protected by the First Amendment, even if it contains language that may be considered lewd by some people.

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