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  • UPDATE: Breast Cancer Awareness Bracelets and the First Amendment Possibly Headed to Supreme Court

    In March 2013, this blog discussed a 2011 case that erupted when junior high students wore breast cancer awareness bracelets with the slogan “I (Heart) Boobies.” School officials quickly banned the bracelets on the basis that the slogan caused a substantial disruption to classroom activity. Students argued that the ban amounted to a violation of their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.

    In this 2011 case, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania held that the bracelets were merely a means of raising breast cancer awareness among the younger generations and cannot reasonably be considered lewd or vulgar.  To review our analysis on that decision, please visit the following link, http://education.cdllpblogs.com/?p=263.

    The Pennsylvania School Board appealed the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s decision. In August 2013, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s decision, reasoning that the School Board failed to prove that the bracelets were disruptive.

    In response, School Board Superintendent John Reinhardt stated that “[t]he Third Circuit Court has compromised administrators’ abilities to intervene in what is and what is not appropriate in school.” Additionally, Reinhardt labeled the bracelets as “cause-based marketing energized by sexual double-entendres.” The Easton School District is one of several school districts around the nation who have banned the bracelets distributed by Keep A Breast Foundation, a California non-profit organization.

    On October 29, 2013, the Easton Area School District Board voted 7-1 in favor of filing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.  As of this blog posting’s date, the Supreme Court has yet to decide whether it will hear the appeal or not.  This forthcoming decision could significantly impact how school boards can interpret student speech that is linked with social or political issues.

    If you or your company would like more information regarding anti-discrimination or education law, please email James G. Ryan at jryan@cullenanddykman.com or call him at (516) 357-3750.

    Special thanks to Melissa Cefalu, a law student at Maurice A. Deane School of Law, and Scott Brenner, a law clerk at Cullen and Dykman LLP, for their assistance with this post.