The Easton Area School District in Pennsylvania has agreed in a settlement to pay attorney’s fees in a case brought against them by two students and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.
The 4-year legal battle was the result of a case filed against the school district after the students Brianna Hawk and Kayla Martinez, who were both in middle school at the time, challenged the school’s ban on the breast cancer awareness bracelets.
According to the Express-Times of Lehigh Valley, a security guard spotted the girls wearing the bracelets at school on Breast Cancer Awareness day in October 2010 and asked them to remove them. When the girls refused, both were suspended for “disrespect, defiance, and disruption” and barred from a school dance.
The ACLU represented the girls in suing the school district in federal court in Philadelphia, claiming their First Amendment right to free speech had been violated.
The bracelets are distributed by the Keep A Breast Foundation in Carlsbad, California, and Easton is one of several school districts around the country who have banned the breast cancer awareness bracelets, claiming they use lewd sexual innuendo.
U.S. District Judge Mary A. McLaughlin ruled in the students’ favor but the school district appealed, saying that the bracelets’ message was “vulgar” and subject to regulation.
The case moved to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in August 2012, which found in a 9-5 opinion that the breast cancer awareness message was protected by the First Amendment because it was a social or political statement.
The school district appealed again, according to Fox News, attempting to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In March of this year, the Supreme Court declined to hear the district’s appeal, leaving the August 2013 decision in place in the states that the Third Circuit court covers – Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Deleware.
Hawk said in a statement released by the ACLU, “”I am happy we won this case because it’s important that students have the right to stand up for a cause and try to make a difference. We just wanted to raise awareness about breast cancer.”
The girls did not seek damages but the Federal Civil Rights Act states that the winner of a lawsuit challenging a civil right can seek attorney fees and court costs, so the $385,000 settlement was negotatied with the ACLU to cover their costs in representing the girls.
Mary Catherine Roper, senior staff attorney for the ACLU branch that represented the girls, said that “We are glad to have resolved this.”
The school district’s attorney has not yet commented on settlement.
Read more breast cancer awareness news in this recent Inquisitr article about a bra camera used to draw attention to this important issue.
Do you think the “I [Heart] Boobies” bracelets are offensive? Would you let your kids wear one?
[Image via Keep A Breast Foundation]