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Online Chatter: Boobie Bracelets and the First Amendment

boobie braceletsThe battle over students’ First Amendment rights continues as a pair of students prepares to fight the Easton (PA) Area School District before the Supreme Court. The teens are fighting to be able to wear breast-cancer awareness bracelets at school without fear of punishment.

The students, Brianna Hawk and Kayla Martinez, were suspended from school in 2010 when on their school’s Breast Cancer Awareness Day, they wore pink bracelets that read “I (heart) Boobies!” The bracelets had already been banned by the district, but as the pair told NBC News, “they merely hoped to promote awareness of the disease at their middle school.”

The girls sued over their suspension, and the case has made it as far as the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court upheld a lower court’s decision in favor of the girls, saying that the district didn’t prove the bracelets were disruptive. Undeterred, the Easton Area School District voted 7-1 to appeal the decision and take their fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

While several steps remain before the case would go before the high court, people from across the country have taken to the Internet to voice their opinion of the situation. 

User “Mary J-7907240” is brief in her reaction, saying, “Some people just seem to make a big thing over nothing. There are more important things out there.” 

Reader “chops51” is one of the few who support the district and lays out a scenario where the bracelets may be used to harass other students.

“The problem is that young boys are wearing these [bracelets] for the wrong reasons. They have the potential to create a hostile learning environment for females. For example, one young boy noticed another male wearing one and replied, “I like boobies, too! Unlike Jennifer here, she doesn’t have any boobs, and Martha’s are nice and big. Shelly doesn’t need to worry about getting breast cancer because she doesn’t have any either.” So the potential for sexual harassment increases with students wearing these for the wrong reason. Remember, lawmakers, these are egocentric adolescents. If your daughter became a victim, then you would simply sue the school for not doing anything about it and call it bullying. … Too many liberals taking away the schools’ authority to maintain a safe environment for all students.” 

“BW-267706” fears that a terrific teachable moment has been lost.

“These school board members and administrators have just shown how idiotic and uneducated they really are. They chose to make an important health issue a fight for power. The principal had a perfect opportunity to create a positive health education experience as well as helping middle-schoolers form a more positive attitude about sexuality. Instead, the moronic adults chose to teach children “We don’t publicly say words that refer to sexuality.” A great teaching moment has been lost, all for the want of power over others. These two young girls have probably had family members who were affected by breast cancer and felt the issue was important. The adults here are sending the wrong message.” 

“ottermann” thinks that the fervor over the bracelets has been created by the district’s reaction to them.

“The school board is correct. These bracelets are creating a distraction for the school. However, the distraction is caused by the board. If you go back to when the girls were originally suspended, no one except the school administrators made any kind of disruption over the bracelets. There was no student disruption. One hundred percent of the fuss was caused by overreacting adults’ fear of the word ‘boobies.’ ”

Were Hawk and Martinez’s First Amendment rights violated by the school? What is your take on the district’s decision to suspend them and continue fighting this issue in court? Would you talk about this case with students in class? Weigh in on the EducationWorld Community.

Related resources

Lesson Plan Booster: Student Clothing and the First Amendment


Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
Education World
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