Is it ever appropriate for junior high or high schools to permit students to promote breast cancer awareness by wearing bracelets that say "I ♥ Boobies! (Keep a Breast)"?
The bracelets are designed to raise awareness among young people as well as to encourage self-examination.
In 2010, two middle school girls in Pennsylvania wore these bracelets in school. The school had a policy that banned the bracelets. When the students were suspended for wearing the bracelets in violation of the school's policy, the students sued the school district in federal court.
The students alleged that the school violated their constitutional right to free speech.
In 2011, a federal judge sided with the middle school students and granted the students' request for an injunction. The judge said that the phrase "I ♥ Boobies!" was neither gratuitious, nor lewd, nor vulgar. "The phrase is a shorthand way of communicating the importance of breast cancer awareness and of keeping one's breasts healthy."
The school district appealed.
Now, 13 judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit must decide whether the school's bracelet ban is appropriate and whether it violates free speech.
At oral argument last week, Judge Delores K. Sloviter of the Third Circuit seemed to lean in favor of the two students when she asked the attorney representing the school district, "How can you tell a court that lost one of its members to breast cancer that the word boobies is offensive? I don't see anything offensive. Having breast cancer is offensive."
Judge Carol Los Mansmann was a United States federal judge for the Third Circuit who passed away from breast cancer in 2002 at the age of 60.
The Third Court's decision will likely be issued in a few months.
The outcome of this case will likely impact future cases affecting students' free speech in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
Do you think your kids should be allowed to wear "I ♥ Boobies! (Keep a Breast)" bracelets in school?
Matthew Stoloff, Esq. represents clients throughout northern and central New Jersey. His practice areas include labor and employment law, special education law, small business matters, and non-compete disputes. For more information, visit his website. This blog article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.