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Pa. Moms Sue School Over ‘Boobies’-Bracelet Ban

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Two mothers filed a free-speech lawsuit Monday against a Pennsylvania school district that suspended their daughters for wearing the popular “I (heart) boobies!” bracelets.

The American Civil Liberties Union believes the lawsuit is the first in the country over a school’s ban on the $4 bracelets, which are designed to raise breast-cancer awareness among young people. The rubber jewelry has become wildly popular among students, prompting bans across the country.

School officials in Easton argue that the slogan is distracting and demeaning, and that some staff feel it trivializes a serious illness.

The district banned the bracelets in October, a month into the school year and after students had been wearing them without serious incident, the ACLU said.

The two girls had their parents’ permission to wear the bracelets but soon found themselves in the principal’s office at Easton Area Middle School, the lawsuit states. They were also banned from school dances for a month.

Amy Martinez said her daughter Kayla’s suspension seems unduly harsh, given that the 12-year-old had agreed to wear the bracelet inside out, with only a breast cancer-awareness website address showing. That, too, was deemed inappropriate under the school dress code, she said.

“I don’t believe that vulgarity, obscenity, profanity or nudity (in the school code) apply to the word ‘boobies’ or ‘breast,”’ said Martinez, 32, an accountant whose late aunt suffered from breast cancer.

“There were teachers that had ‘breast cancer awareness’ T-shirts on” in October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she said.

The ACLU calls the bracelets perhaps silly and irreverent, but not lewd or indecent.

The civil-rights group has intervened in similar school disputes across the country, including a second case in Pennsylvania and one in Wyoming in which a student was allowed to keep wearing a bracelet except in the presence of two teachers who found it objectionable.

The Easton families, however, are the first to file suit, ACLU lawyer Mary Catherine Roper said.

“The First Amendment does not allow schools to censor students’ speech merely because some students and teachers are offended by the non-vulgar educational message, and silencing the speakers because other students may react inappropriately would amount to a constitutionally impermissible heckler’s veto,” Roper, who represents the families, wrote in the lawsuit.

“Seeing a bracelet with ‘I Love Boobies!’ on it is a conversation starter that leads to discussion and awareness of issues affecting young people,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in federal court in Philadelphia on behalf of Martinez and Jennifer Hawk, the mother of an eighth-grader. The two girls are friends, Martinez said. Kayla Martinez continues to wear the bracelet to school under her sleeve, her mother said.

The suit asks the district to end the ban, allow the girls to attend all school functions and expunge their disciplinary records.

Easton’s superintendent did not immediately return a call for comment.

In discussions between the two sides before the lawsuit was filed, district officials complained the bracelets made some people uncomfortable and had prompted some boys to make inappropriate comments, the suit said.

“I don’t know … why the educators are not equipped to deal with distractions. Why do they have to ban, ban, ban?” Martinez said.

Schools from Florida to California have banned the bracelets. One Oregon high school said the message was getting lost on the ninth-grade boys who were wearing them.

The rubber jewelry is sold by the Carlsbad, Calif.-based nonprofit Keep A Breast Foundation to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer organizations.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Easton Area School District:
Keep A Breast Foundation:

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  • karen

    I luv Boobies is not appropriate for children to wearing to school. My girlfriend is a Breast cancer survivor and wouldn’t even consider wearing a bracelet like this, If the said Breast cancer awarness is more appropriate. These parents don’t have anything better to do. I don;t love my breast that much if it meant life or death, I think it sends the wrong message.

  • bottomline

    Kimi628: People die from many causes, at all ages. Children should be encourage to learn, be strong and live to the fullest, not to dwell on sickness and death, they’ll face these issues soon enough.

  • Kelly

    These kids are not wearing these bracelets to seek breast cancer awareness. They are wearing it b/c they think they are funny. The parents who are suing are just trying to get a free penny. If the parents win are they going to donate there winnings to breast cancer awareness- I doubt it.. There is a thin line between awareness and respect and these kids and parents have no respect for the men and woman suffering from breast cancer.

  • Michelle Schmidt

    I hope these parents win their lawsuit I think the school is being ridiculous it is a very important reality breast cancer and I think if these kids spend their money on something good for a change they should be able to wear it. People that are offended dont look at it. Its just that simple, get over it and leave it alone and move on to bigger issues to ban from school.

  • Marjorie

    It is called breast not boobies so that is not appropriate. I love Breast would not be appropriate as well for a student to show around school . Unfortunately some teenagers are not as mature as others and would definitely turn this into a mockery. As for the way the school handled the issue a bit much just a correction is sufficient don’t allow them to wear it . Punishment is not necessary. A lawsuit is definitely not needed just a good talk should be sufficient.

  • Alan

    If you want to show your support for breast cancer awareness, there are better ways of doing it than “I Love Boobies”. They sell pink ribbons and bracelets, but wearing something that does make light of the issue of cancer just seems disrespectful. Yeah, people wear them for support, but they also wear them because they are funny, and cancer is not a funny issue. If they aren’t doing it to be funny, why not wear a pink bracelet? Although, on the awareness side of things, Lung Cancer kills more people every year than Breast Cancer, Colorectal Cancer, and Prostate Cancer combined. That’s my two cents on awareness.

  • debunny

    I have to agree with the majority of the posts here. Children go to school to learn – period end of story. However, to sue to district over these rubber bracelets is petty, next someone will sue because “silly bands” were traded between kids on the playground and someone didn’t get the one they wanted. Breast Cancer Awareness is a serious issue and I applaud the kids who want to get the message out. But unfortunately all teens are not as mature as others and the mess this has caused is not worth it.

  • Clay Boggess

    I agree with the ACLU on this one. Students should be protected by the Constitution and be afforded the right to freedom of expression as long as what they are expressing is tactful. With that said, I do think that, with some exceptions, most of the younger students who are wearing these wrist bands are wearing them for reasons other than the underlying message. Like anything else, the novelty will soon wear off.

    Clay Boggess

  • Sudie

    My friend’s son and all of his male friends are wearing these bracelets. When they speak of them they refer to them as bracelets supporting the fight against breast cancer not as tit bracelets. It is not sexual.

  • pat

    I am a teacher of 8th grade students. The comment in the article that says the bracelets are a conversation starter that leads to discussion and awareness of issues affecting young people was clearly made by someone who does not really know teenagers. The only conversation I have heard from the bracelets is whose boobies they like more. It is just a way for teenagers to degrade other teenagers legally. I hope that they keep the ban on the bracelets. The parents of this lawsuit really need to rethink it. While their daughters might be mature enough to see the bracelets as a way of promoting breast cancer awareness, the majority of teenagers look upon it as a joke.

  • really

    Schools have dress code rules in force to PROTECT our children. It takes one mischievous child to misread, misconstrue the bracelets; the situation escalates and then there is a real problem where you need lawyers…….. I’m all for advocating awareness of issues such as breast cancer HOWEVER, school is NOT the place or time.

    The ACLU puts their nose into every little issue and “free speech” this is NOT free speech, nor what the Constitution has been interpreted to mean. ….. If the ACLU wins, then we are all going to hell in a hand-basket.

  • Period.

    I agree with the school on this one. As an adult I would never wear a vulgar bracelet like that. The only people who should wear them are strippers in a strip club. Kids are out of control these days and their parents should advocate but be more concerned with their education. Isn’t that why they go to school? I am all for breast cancer awareness but that is just obscene and derogatory! I hope they lose this case and the parents focus more on raising well rounded, educated children.

  • Kathy Raynor

    Good for the Mom! Petty issue? Petty like the boy who rode his bike to school with an American flag on the back of it & was told to remove it? Someone has to advocate on behalf children!

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    […] Moms Sue School Over ‘Boobies’-Bracelet Ban […]

  • bob

    it was amazing to see on your news show today that your commentators would not utter the word “boobies”…..,but it was okay for kids to wear that name on their person…..the school system was proper in not allowing the word to be used…..what we don’t need is kids being given the permission to be fresh…..the parents should say no and don’t allow lawyers to dictate how we raise them

  • kimi628

    Really??? ADULT issues??? hmmmm Maybe I can give you directions to the cemetery plot at Holy Cross Cemetery and you can tell my 14 year old cousin who is buried there that she couldn’t have died from breast cancer because she was not an adult. Breast Cancer is NOT just an adult issue. CHILDREN lose ADULT FAMILY MEMBERS to breast cancer.

  • bottomline

    Children are sent to school to get an education, not to advocate adult issues, using “non-profit“ issued bracelets. The problem now is, the ACLU has inserted themselves into this petty issue, so also expect high legal costs for the school system. If the “non-profit” ACLU wins that will be one more step to loosing control of our children, control meant for their own good. The math says, “Non-profit + non-profit = black hole.”

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