Wrist-banned?

“I Love Boobies” bracelets raise questions of students’ right to freedom of expression.

Recently, a federal appeals court ruled that a Pennsylvanian school district could not ban “I Heart Boobies!” bracelets. The court, keeping in consideration the students’ right of speech to comment on ongoing issues, rightfully rejected the district’s claim that the bracelets were “lewd and disruptive” to the school environment.

Designed by “Keep a Breast” foundation, the bracelets’ main intention was to promote breast cancer awareness among teens. With its catchy and upbeat slogan, the bracelets have become a popular franchise since their production in 2004 and have successfully instigated dialogue about breast cancer among the youth, a subject that would have otherwise been taboo and awkward—but not without stirring nationwide controversies in schools. Many school districts have banned the bracelets, viewing it as conflicting with their school dress code.

In Pennsylvania, teens Brianna Hawk and Kayla Martinez filed a lawsuit after being suspended for defying the ban of these bracelets at their middle school. The teens, like many others who were caught in similar cases in the past, testified that they were only trying to promote awareness of breast cancer to other students.

Their school officials, apparently not understanding its reference to breast cancer, claimed that the bracelet was simply a disruption to the learning environment. In the lawsuit, the district argued that the bracelets represented “cause-based marketing energized by sexual double-entendres.”

The bracelets, however, are intended to be, and should rationally be viewed as an expression designed to diminish the stigma that is associated with discussing breast health. Just because the adults overanalyzed the bracelet’s meaning and claimed it to be provocative doesn’t mean students’ freedom of speech could be limited.

It certainly was not as if the bracelets were explicitly suggestive or causing a wide disturbance to the school. Thus, suspending students who stood up to exercise their given rights is unconstitutional. Of course, freedom of speech does not invite students to sport gang-affiliated clothing or similar extremes, but the “I love boobies” bracelets are nowhere near that sort, and are mainly used to spread awareness of a serious topic.

Simply put, the bracelet’s fun slogan spreads awareness of the often awkward issue of breast cancer to the younger generation. Adults may frown upon the suggestive message they believe it to contain, but banning this instigator of positive dialogue seems downright unreasonable. Students certainly have the freedom to express and support their views, even if it means a few giggles over a harmless word.