A Pennsylvania school district will ask the Supreme Court of the United States to consider a case about the word “boobies.”
It all started with an “I <3 Boobies!” bracelet that was designed to promote breast cancer awareness among young people.
Here’s what happened:
The Easton Area School District, located about 60 miles north of Philadelphia, said several years ago that the bracelets, distributed by the Keep A Breast Foundation of Carlsbad, California, were lewd and banned students from wearing them.
Kayla Martinez, then 12, and Brianna Hawk, then 13, defied the ban and wore the bracelets to Easton Area Middle School in 2010. They were suspended.
The girls, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, then challenged the ban, and after making its way through lower courts, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the girls in August. The court said the district didn’t prove the bracelets were lewd or disruptive.
But the school district board isn’t backing down, despite the fact that each court ruling has favored the students. Members voted 7-1 on Tuesday to appeal the August decision to the Supreme Court. Superintendent John Reinhart told Lehigh Valley Live that “The Third Circuit Court has compromised administrators’ abilities to intervene in what is and what is not appropriate in school.”
The superintendent did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ACLU argues that the ban restricts students’ First Amendment rights.
"The First Amendment protects schools as a space where students are free to discuss important issues like breast cancer and talk about their bodies in positive terms," said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, in a statement released after the August decision. "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 likelihood that the Supreme Court will actually hear the case is slim. The court receives about 10,000 petitions each year but hears less than 100.
“This is a stunning waste of taxpayers’ money,” Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Center and dean of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University, said during a phone interview with Fusion. “They are highly unlikely to take this case.”
The court typically looks at cases when there’s a discrepancy in the lower rulings or if there’s a need to clarify the law, he said. But this one “is crystal clear. They lost convincingly.”
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.