B.H. & K.M. et al v. Easton Area School District
725 F.3d 293 (3d Cir. 2013)
In November 2010, Jennifer Hawk and Amy McDonald Martinez filed a lawsuit against Easton School District, in Pennsylvania, in response to what they felt was the unlawful suspension of their daughters. Their daughters were punished for wearing “I ♥ Boobies” bracelets in order to promote breast cancer awareness. In February 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania agreed with the students that the bracelets are not lewd or vulgar and are protected speech. The school appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
In 2011, the SPLC filed a brief (along with ARN attorney and former SPLC legal fellow Wayne I. Pollock of Dechert LLP) on behalf of the students arguing that the trial court’s decision gives school administrators excessive power to censor independent student speech. The brief cites studies that show schools are often too quick to suspend over minor issues and that a suspension can have irreversible consequences on a student’s life. The brief also argues that this case does not fall under the Bethel School District v. Fraser rule because most people would not consider the word “Boobies” lewd or offensive. Even if the bracelets are considered lewd, fighting breast cancer is an activity with social redeeming value.
In August of 2013, the Third Circuit agreed with the students and upheld the trial court decision. The Supreme Court declined to hear the school’s appeal in 2014.