Censorship of ‘boobies bracelets’ continues

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A disturbing pattern continues to emerge across the country involving breast-cancer support bracelets worn by public school students. Students wear them, administrators overreact and censor them, and some students file lawsuits in federal court asserting their First Amendment rights.

The bracelets, sponsored by the Keep A Breast Foundation, are designed to increase awareness of breast cancer. Some public school students wear them to honor a family member or friend who has battled the disease.

The Fort Wayne, Ind., Journal Gazette reports on the latest of these controversies. An unidentified high school sophomore in Fort Wayne sued after her principal forbade her from wearing the bracelet. It had been given to her by her mother, Julie Andrzejewski, a breast-cancer survivor.

One federal court decision in Pennsylvania already has established that two middle school students had a First Amendment right to wear the bracelets. In H. v. Easton Area School District, a federal district judge ruled in April 2011 in the students’ favor. The judge found that the bracelets caused no substantial disruption of school activities and were not vulgar or lewd.

These bracelets are protected speech. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969) that public school students had the right to wear black peace armbands to public school — even though the Vietnam War was the most controversial of topics.

The “I Love Boobies” bracelets should be treated the same way as the black peace armbands in Tinker — as protected speech. The First Amendment requires as much.

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