On Tuesday, a panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in what’s been dubbed the “I Heart Boobies” case. This lawsuit has it all — the First Amendment, the ACLU and “boobies.”
The case involves two female middle school students at Easton Area Middle School. The students were suspended for wearing breast-cancer awareness bracelets that had the words “I Heart Boobies— Keep a Breast Foundation.”
The school claimed that the bracelets were lewd and violated the school’s dress code.
While the comments on the bracelets were based on a larger contextual message, the school district maintains the argument that the statements were actually “sexual double entendres.” This concept was addressed in Bethel School District v. Fraser, where despite the lack of foul language, a student was held in the wrong for making obviously suggestive statements.
Did the “I Heart Boobies” bracelets convey a hidden sexual meaning? That’s left to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to decide.
If the analysis is contextual, then several arguments could be advanced. After all, context could also include where and when the comments were presented. While the same comments might not disrupt mature adults, it is appropriate to ban material that may disrupt teenagers?
Was the school correct in banning bracelets which could cause unnecessary controversy or drama in classrooms?
How will the law be decided on the seemingly innocent and cause-promoting bracelets?
In support of the school district’s position, the District Solicitor expressed concern that the validation of “I Heart Boobies” could open the door to other suggestive cause-based slogans, such as testicular cancer awareness slogan “Feel My Balls.”
The case, although simple in its facts, is not so simple in context. It’s certainly one to watch.