FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 2011
EASTON, PA - Today a federal judge ordered the Easton Area School District (EASD) to allow two students at the Easton Area Middle School to wear popular breast cancer awareness bracelets from the Keep-A-Breast Foundation with the phrase "I (Heart) Boobies! Save A Breast!". The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania had filed suit in November on behalf of Kayla Martinez and Brianna Hawk, seventh and eighth graders, respectively, at Easton Area Middle School, who were suspended for wearing "I (Heart) Boobies!" bracelets on the school's Breast Cancer Awareness Day.
"The court's decision confirms that schools cannot censor student speech without a good reason. A student's freedom to speak - especially about something as important as breast cancer awareness - cannot be shut down because the student chooses words the school administrator would not choose," said Mary Catherine Roper, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania and lead counsel for the students.
EASD had argued that the bracelets were inappropriate for middle school students because they are "lewd" and that school officials reasonably feared that the presence of the bracelets would cause some students to make inappropriate remarks and lead to other disruptions. But the district could identify only two such incidents in three months, despite the fact that the bracelets had been worn by numerous students from the beginning of the school year until they were banned in late October. In its opinion, the court concluded that "the bracelets cannot reasonably be considered lewd or vulgar" and that EASD had failed to present evidence that the bracelets had or would cause material and substantial disruption at school.
The students are represented by Roper, Witold Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of PA, ACLU of PA legal fellow Molly Tack-Hooper, and Seth Kreimer at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.
More information about the case, including copies of the lawsuit and today's decision, is available at: http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/bhandkmveastonareaschooldi.htm