On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court turned away a Pennsylvania school district seeking to prevent its students from wearing breast cancer awareness bracelets featuring the phrase “I ♥ Boobies.” That denial leaves in place a 2013 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, which ruled in favor of the students on First Amendment grounds.
The case arose in 2010 when several teachers at Pennsylvania’s Eaton Area Middle School complained about the bracelets worn by several female students, arguing that the term “boobies” was disruptive and sexually suggestive. A ban on the bracelets soon followed, but two students refused to comply and were subsequently suspended for their “disrespect,” “defiance,” and “disruption.”
In its 2013 decision, the 3rd Circuit sided with the students. “Because the bracelets here are not plainly lewd and because they comment on a social issue, they may not be categorically banned,” the 3rd Circuit held. “Schools cannot avoid teaching our citizens-in-training how to appropriately navigate the ‘marketplace of ideas.’ Just because letting in one idea might invite even more difficult judgment calls about other ideas cannot justify suppressing speech of genuine social value.”
As is customary, the U.S. Supreme Court offered no explanation for its refusal to hear the case.