On Tuesday, a Pennsylvania school district said that it intends to take its fight against “I Heart Boobies” bracelets, which are intended to raise breast cancer awareness, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court — this, after a lower court determined that the bracelets were neither lewd nor disruptive.
“We will be filing a petition with the Supreme Court,” district solicitor John Freund told ABC News. “Other courts have found banning of these bracelets to be a constitutional and permissible exercise of school authority. Case law gives schools the authority to ban material deemed lewd, obscene, profane or vulgar.”
The case began in 2010 after Briana Hawk and Kayla Martinez, then ages 12 and 13, challenged the school’s ban on the bracelets by wearing them to school on Breast Cancer Awareness Day and were subsequently suspended. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) agreed to take the girls’ case, garnering national interest in the matter.
In August, after a ruling in the girls’ favor in a lower court, a federal court again ruled that the girls had a right to wear the bracelets as a matter of free speech because the school district failed to prove that the memorabilia is disruptive. In fact, the court found that the bracelets held genuine social value and, as a result, should not be dictated by the district.
“Just because letting in one idea might invite even more difficult judgment calls about other ideas cannot justify suppressing speech of genuine social value,” wrote the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Hawk and Martinez’s supporters say that they don’t understand the district’s commitment to fighting the case — especially since the girls wore the bracelets to raise awareness about a worthy cause.
"I'm just really surprised that they're so determined to fight this speech case of all speech cases," said attorney Mary Catherine Roper. "(The bracelets) didn't cause any problems in the school."
But the district contends that the issue has become bigger than these two girls and those breast cancer bracelets. It’s about the permissible use of school authority.
"The Third Circuit Court has compromised administrators' abilities to intervene in what is and what is not appropriate in school," said John Reinhart, Easton School District Superintendent.
The district voted to petition the U.S. Supreme Court. Once the Court looks over the petition, it will decide to either review the case or let the Third Circuit’s decision stand.