Breast Cancer Support Limited by School Board wBrianna and Kayla, ages 12 and 13 were only in middle-school when having their first encounter with limitations of constitutional rights. During Breast Cancer Awareness Day, they decided to wear the “I <3 Boobies” bracelet which in their understanding along with many others is the simple representation and gesture signifying their support in the cause. Unfortunately, while at school these girls were suspended from school for defying school policy regarding the ban on these bracelets. Immediately following the suspension they decided to file suit against the school claiming that their clear intent was to “foster knowledge of the disease at their school”. However, Easton School Board spokesman John Freund III is claiming that “local school authorities need the ability to enforce dress codes and maintain reasonable decorum of the manner of expression in an educational environment, while respecting the legitimate rights of students to express themselves”. The clear issue-at-hand is whether or not the school has the power to enforce limitations on a student’s “freedom of speech”, and if so, to what extent? In addition, there is the last option of asking “what’s the big deal”. Although each side contains a sturdy, well-articulated argument there are some important yet not mentioned aspects that may truly show the injustice within this school system and its policies. First, as we have learned throughout class, the justice system is based on precedents and keeping tradition. The perfect example of a precedent can be seen in the 1969 case Tinker v. Des Moines, in which a public school organized a “silent protest against the Vietnam War”. Students planned to wear black armbands, and due to the principle finding out, he stated he would suspend anyone showing support by choosing to wear the black armbands. This was labeled as a landmark case because although a US District Court and US Court of Appeals denied the students, they decided to take the case to the Supreme Court in which they decided 7-2 that “students don’t shed their constitutional rights at the school house gates”. The Supreme Court I believe has a somewhat clear understanding when it comes to the concept of “freedom of speech” and when cases challenging the limitations of it are presented, true justice is displayed from the justice system specifically seen here, and also in the 1969 Tinker case. Although justice is served, this case was much bigger than many expected because as Keep A Breast the inventors of the “I <3 Boobies” bracelets stated “the decision marks the first time a federal court of appeals has ruled that the First Amendment protects student speech that is plausibly understood as commenting on political or social issues”. I believe cases similar to this are on-going and there will be many more presented before the Supreme Court. This will become especially important, as culture of social-media, and expressing one-self becomes increasingly popular through time. Also, although this issue was originally presented in 2010, the landmark decision was made in March 2014, and serves as a “reminder to school administrators that they can’t punish students for speaking out just because their speech might be uncomfortable or misunderstood”.

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3 Responses to Breast Cancer Support Limited by School Board

  1. jamietraxler says:

    I love this. I love that students are able to be protected even at school. For some reason school administrators think that they can treat students however they want. But public education is exactly that, public. Unless you are attending a private institution that strictly enforces it’s own set of rules in which you sign a contract stating that you give up some of your rights to free speech or dress or any other “free” activity in order to be a part of their organization, students should be able to express themselves. Here at ASU, we have free speech zones in which certain areas are designated to the public and whoever wants to say or preach or speak out on any issues can do so within the confines of that zone. I love this because it gives people freedom but also protects students like me from not being harassed through every part of campus because some person believes I’m going to hell for “worshipping” the devil through my attendance at this university.

  2. kdmflag says:

    I want to start by saying that I agree in the point of law wherein students retain their First Amendment rights within the confines of a school. As an educator, I believe schools should be a place of questioning and discovery, not compliance or homogenization. However, I wonder if this argument for the excising of ‘I heart boobies’ wrist bands is better made as an argument against profanity. While the school spokesperson claimed to merely wish for the authority over dress codes, if in their position I would argue these bracelets are merely profane. There are many ways to inform your fellow students on the dangers of breast cancer and the need for solidarity among its sufferers without using a smutty word like boobies. These bracelets are meant to be cheeky, not informative, and the line between cheeky and profane is just a matter of opinion. At least that’s what I would argue, if I were an uptight asshole.

  3. naherresp says:

    I am in agreement with you kdmflag, I believe the controversy of the ” I <3 bobbies" is more of a profanity issue at school. That is why it was being regulated as a dress code matter. We have become so quick to throw in the 1st amendment into play every time school officials or other authorities try to implement regulations in school. Whether it's public or private schools, rules still need to be established to maintain an orderly conduct between students. These students could have manifested their freedom of speech in regards to breast cancer with t-shirts that meet school dress code or for example the Susan G Komen pink ribbon. In my opinion it's becoming much more difficult for schools to maintain a healthy environment when they are being retained from implementing regulations that in the end benefit our youth. Can you imagine a twelve year old showing up to school with a pink bra and mesh sheer t-shirt that reads " I <3 Bobbies" being argued as freedom of speech in school ?

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