WASHINGTON - The United States Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a Pennsylvania school district that wants to prevent students from wearing "I (heart) Boobies!" bracelets to promote breast cancer awareness among young people.
The justices on Monday left in place a federal appeals court ruling striking down a ban on the bracelets. The ban was put in place by the Easton Area School District, which said the breast-cancer awareness bracelets are lewd in their use of sexual innuendo.
The lower court sided with two students who sued the district in 2010 with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. Easton is one of several school districts across the country to ban the bracelets, which are distributed by the nonprofit Keep A Breast Foundation of Carlsbad, Calif.
"I am happy we won this case, because it's important that students have the right to stand up for a cause and try to make a difference. We just wanted to raise awareness about breast cancer," said Briana Hawk, who was in eighth grade at Easton Area Middle School when she was suspended, along with seventh grader Kayla Martinez, for wearing the rubber bracelets on the school's Breast Cancer Awareness Day in the fall of 2010.
"I got a message from the ACLU saying that we're not going to Supreme Court and we won our case for good. I was really happy," said Martinez in an interview.
The ACLU also reacted to the Supreme Court's decision.
"The First Amendment protects schools as a space where students are free to discuss important issues like breast cancer and talk about their bodies in positive terms," said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "The court's decision today is an important reminder to school administrators that they can't punish students for speaking out just because their speech might be uncomfortable or misunderstood."
The district also released a statement, expressing disappointment in the court's decision.
"Local school authorities need the ability to enforce dress codes and maintain reasonable decorum of the manner of expression in an educational environment, while respecting the legitimate rights of students to express themselves," an attorney for the district said.
"The Third Circuit's decision in departing from Supreme Court precedent robs educators and school boards of the ability to strike a reasonable balance between a student's right to creative expression and school's obligation to maintain an environment focused on education and free from sexual entendre and vulgarity."
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