NBC10.com - Matt DeLucia
The Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a local school district that wanted to prevent students from wearing controversial bracelets promoting breast cancer awareness. NBC10's Matt DeLucia spoke with both sides of the issue.
The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday morning that it would not take on the case involving the Easton Area School District's desired ban on the "I (heart) boobies!" cancer awareness bracelets.
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 says the breast-cancer awareness bracelets are lewd in their use of sexual innuendo.
In August, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the "I (heart) boobies!" slogan is protected by the First Amendment. But the school district appealed to the Supreme Court arguing the federal appeals court misapplied previous cases when it made its decision.
In its filing, district solicitor John Freund says school administrators should be able to "prohibit students from using lewd language to convey political or social messages, particularly where the ban does not have the effect of completely precluding the issue from the school forum and the same message can be conveyed in a more decorous manner."
The litigation began when two students, Brianna Hawk and Kayla Martinez, wore the bracelets at their middle school in 2010.
At the time, the pair said they hoped to promote awareness of the disease during the school's Breast Cancer Awareness Day. But school officials suspended them for defying the bracelet ban, which they argued was necessary because the bracelets distracted students and could lead to sexual harassment.
"I felt like they didn't understand what the bracelets were for," Hawk said. "They didn't really care enough to even find out or look into it. They just wanted to be right."
In a statement released by the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Hawk said she was "happy" to have won the case.
"...It’s important that students have the right to stand up for a cause and try to make a difference," said Hawk. "We just wanted to raise awareness about breast cancer."
Martinez said she is glad that her age didn't deter her from being heard.
"This whole experience has taught me that speaking up about issues that really matter to young people really makes a difference, even if you're only in seventh grade."
The school district said it was "disappointed" in a statement released Monday.
"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," the statement read. "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."
Hawk disagrees with the district's belief that the decision will lead to more chaos in the classroom.
"Of course there are always immature boys," Hawk said. "But I don't think it's that disruptive."