The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it would not hear a Pennsylvania school district’s appeal challenging student’s right to wear “I (heart) boobies” bracelets. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case means the August 2013 ruling of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia will stand, marking a clear victory for students Brianna Hawk and Kayla Martinez.
The case was introduced in 2010 when a charity called Keep-A-Breast Foundation began to sale paraphernalia that read “I (heart) boobies,” to support breast cancer awareness. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the bracelets became a fad for middle-school students in the Easton Area School District in Pennsylvania. However, administrators were purportedly uncomfortable with the double–entendre, saying it was vulgar and sexual making it inappropriate for school.
But Hawk and Martinez continued to wear the bracelets despite the school district’s ban. After refusing to remove the bracelets the two girls were given a one-and-a-half day suspension, the BBC said.
In November 2010 the two girls sued the school district, and in April 2011 they were successful in getting an injunction that prohibited the school from disciplining students for wearing the bracelets, Reuters reported.
The school district then appealed to Third Circuit Court of Appeals. A 9 to 5 vote by the appeals court sided with the girls, saying the "I (heart) boobies" slogan was protected as free speech because it was not inherently lewd when interpreted in context of the social statement it was intended for, the Christian Science Monitor reported.
Following this court's decision the school district took their appeal to the Supreme Court claiming the previous ruling undermined the school's authority to prohibit messages the school deems vulgar.
“There is no suggestion in … [existing Supreme Court precedents] that student speech full of sexual innuendo or scatological implications must be tolerated by the Constitution just because an argument can be made to connect them with some political or social cause,” John Freund III, a lawyer for the school district wrote in his brief.
When the Supreme Court rejected the appeal, the school district releases a statement saying the decision "robs educators and school boards of the ability to strike a reasonable balance between a student's right to creative expression and school's obligation to maintain an environment focused on education and free from sexual entendre and vulgarity."
Not everyone was unhappy about the outcome.
"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,” Hawk said upon hearing the Supreme Court’s resolution. “We just
wanted to raise awareness about breast cancer."