It’s official: The Easton Area School District is not a fan of boobies.
Yesterday, following a longstanding (and pretty ridiculous) legal battle, the school district’s board voted 7-1 to appeal a district court judge’s decision that breast cancer awareness bracelets with the phrase “I (heart) boobies” was not lewd.
Ok, in the interest of clarity, let’s back up to Oct. 28 of 2010 (also known as Breast Cancer Awareness Day). In an attempt to promote breast cancer awareness at their middle school, two young girls – Brianna Hawk, 12, and Kayla Martinez, 13 – wore bracelets that proclaimed, “I (heart) boobies”.
The silly, little phrase happens to be the call to arms of the Keep A Breast Foundation which uses the inherent schoolyard levity implied in the phrase to coax people into a more open, honest dialogue on the impact of breast cancer.
The Easton Area School District took issue with the accessories, calling them lascivious and claiming they promoted a “hyper-sexualized” environment. Because, these bracelets might be the one thing in the world that prompts 13-year-olds to think about sex …
At any rate, the school board promptly suspended Hawk and Martinez, who, in turn, filed suit against the school board. In April of the following year, the case made its way into the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Mary McLaughlin, who ruled: “The bracelets are intended to be and they can reasonably be viewed as speech designed to raise awareness of breast cancer and to reduce the stigma associated with openly discussing breast health.”
Rather than reluctantly accept the ruling and just bad-mouthing the current generation behind closed doors (like responsible adults), the school board rejected the notion that it might be ok to talk about boob health and appealed the ruling.
Bureaucracy being what it is, the case flew through the system with all the speed a government institution is known for. So, two years after the initial ruling and appeal (that would be this year), the case came before the Third District U.S. Court of Appeals who upheld the previous decision, calling the case a clear cut issue of First Amendment rights.
As Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania put it, “The court’s decision today is an important reminder to school administrators that they can’t punish students for speaking out just because their speech might be uncomfortable or misunderstood.”
The school board, in response, claimed that the decision had seriously impacted their ability to govern their kids. After all, if the kids are allowed to say whatever the heck they want, who knows what kind of anarchy would reign? It’d be like an Eastern Pennsylvania “Lord of the Flies”.
Bare in mind, the school board has been unable to point to a specific case in which the bracelets have served as a disruption.
However, in an effort to preserve what little of their authority remained, the school board again wasted little time in calling the subsequent ruling total B-S. And, if you think the Easton Area school board are the only people concerned about children talking about breasts, you’d be wrong. They’ve been joined in their efforts by the National Association of School Psychologists, the National School Boards Association and the Pennsylvania School Board Association, among others.
So, what’s next for this anti-boob cabal? That’s the best part. The school board and it’s puritanical compatriots are planning to bring the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. While the highest court in the land might not take the opportunity to hear the controversial (and totally stupid) case, the Easton Area school board can rest assured that they’ve done what they can to make sure children are seen and not heard.