The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge to the Third Circuit’s ruling that the Easton Area School District could not prevent students from wearing breast cancer awareness bracelets.
The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case means that the Third Circuit’s ruling stands, a victory for the students involved.
At issue was the fact that two students at Easton Area Middle School were suspended in 2010 for wearing rubber awareness bracelets that read “I (heart) boobies!” on their school’s Breast Cancer Awareness Day.
Briana Hawk and Kayla Martinez were in eighth and seventh grades, respectively, when they were suspended by their school. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on their behalf in November 2010, and in April 2011, a district court judge found that the Easton Area School District had violated the girls’ First Amendment right to free speech and issued an injunction preventing the school from enforcing its ban, the ACLU said.
EASD appealed the decision, and the court of appeals ruled in August 2013 that the bracelets could not be banned, saying that they were not “plainly lewd” and did not threaten “substantial and material disruption of the school.”
“This is the first time a federal court of appeals has ruled that student speech that is plausibly understood as commenting on political or social issues is protected by the First Amendment, even if it contains language that could be considered lewd by some,” the ACLU said.
“I am happy we won this case, because it’s important that students have the right to stand up for a cause and try to make a difference. We just wanted to raise awareness about breast cancer,” Hawk said in a statement released by the ACLU.
Martinez added, “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.”