• Detention for wearing breast cancer bracelet

    Date: 03.16.10 | by Judge Tom.

    Nick Morgan is a 15-year-old freshman in South Glens Falls, New York. He has an aunt with breast cancer and another aunt who died from the disease. Consequently, Nick supports Breast Cancer Awareness. He wears a bracelet that says “I (heart) Boobies (Keep A Breast)”

    Mainstream groups like the American Cancer Society support the program. Spokesperson, Charaign Sesock, stated that “This campaign is targeting teen years and college ages so that they can empower themselves to be advocates for their own bodies.” Money raised from the $4.00 bracelets is used for research and local programs for patients.

    In March, 2010, Nick’s science teacher took offense at the message and told him to remove it. He explained to her why he wore it and agreed to turn it inside out. She disapproved and sent Nick to an alternative class for the rest of the period.

    Nick continued to wear the bracelet to school and on the third day was given detention for being insubordinate in not removing it. His mother disagreed with the school’s response and wouldn’t let Nick serve the detention.

    Nick and his mother discussed the situation with the school superintendent who agreed to waive the detention; however, the principal stated that it is prohibited for Nick and any student to wear the bracelet.* They have a meeting scheduled with the district officials on March 24th to further discuss this issue and Nick’s First Amendment right to continue wearing the bracelet. The matter was resolved when Nick was moved to another science class with a different teacher. This was a teachable moment passed up by the offended teacher.

    When asked why wearing the bracelet is important to him, Nick said the following:

    “Breast cancer awareness is very important to me beacuse when I was young, probably 4 or 5, I lost my great Aunt to breast cancer. That was hard, I was small but I knew and loved Aunt Mary and then she was gone. I did not know at the time what happened or why she was gone and I did not even know what cancer was! A short time later another great aunt on Mom’s side was diagnosed and has been battling it ever since. She can never make her three year mark but she keeps fighting…. really hard! I knew about the “keep a breast” bracelet because I heard about the program from some friends. I saw a bracelet while shopping with my Mom I wanted to get one. She had a few questions at first but I explained the program to her and I got one! Most of the cost of the bracelet goes to support breast cancer awareness among kids my age. I like that I am helping support cancer awareness because I have a Grandmother, a Mom, a Sister, two cousins… and breast cancer affects men and boys as well and anything we can do to prtotect ourselves and learn about cancer is good. I am still wearing my bracelet because this is my small part I can do. People are talking now about breast cancer, whether they agree with “I (heart) boobies” or Live strong… they are talking and sales are up (according to the zumiez in my mall) and that is never bad! I am proud of myself and I will always stand up for breast cancer whether I get a detention or not.”

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Nick! Although the debate continues in other states such as California, some school districts are allowing the bracelets. On the other hand, schools such as Baltic High School in South Dakota have banned the bracelets.

    Update:   On November 15, 2010, the mothers of two girls who attend Easton Area Middle School in Pennsylvania filed suit in federal court claiming a free speech violation. This is believed to be the first lawsuit regarding the bracelets. (B.H. v. Easton Area School District). On April 12, 2011 the Pennsylvania District Court ruled* in the girls favor stating:

    “The bracelets are intended to be and they can reasonably be viewed as speech designed to raise awareness of breast cancer and to reduce stigma associated with openly discussing breast health.” The court based its decision on the 1986 case of Bethel School District v. Matthew Fraser where the Supreme Court approved school discipline for lewd and vulgar speech. The message on the bracelets was neither lewd or vulgar. The judge also pointed out that no evidence was presented regarding any disruption at school due to the bracelets as required by Tinker. The decision was appealed and argued before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in April, 2012 with a decision expected in a few months. For more on this issue, click here. Update: In August, 2012, the Third Circuit decided that the full court will rehear the case. A date hasn’t been set for the hearing, but the injunction against the school from enforcing its ban remains in place. On August 5, 2013 the full court for the Third Circuit issued their opinion upholding the District Court’s decision that the school went too far in banning the bracelets. The court stated that “speech that does not rise to the level of plainly lewd and that could plausibly be interpreted as commenting on political or social issues may not be categorically restricted.” This case may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    On the other hand, a federal district court in Wisconsin ruled against a student in February, 2012. Middle school student Kaisey Jenkins challenged her school’s ban on the bracelet. The 13 year-old, 8th-grader wore the bracelet throughout the first semester of school along with her classmates. There was no disturbance or disruption as a result of the bracelets. When the second semester started, the principal banned them and later allowed them only if worn inside out. Kaisey and her mother, Caran Braun, challenged the school’s action in court and lost. The judge wrote in her opinion that the phrase “I (heart) Boobies” is sexual innuendo that is vulgar, at least in the context of a middle school.” Kaisey and her mother dropped the lawsuit in March, 2012. Their lawyer explained “We decided it was better for the issue as a whole to step back and let other people take the lead. . . .We’re trying to avoid making bad law.” Kaisey graduates from middle school this year and will start high school where the bracelets are allowed.

    In May, 2012, another lawsuit was filed in Indiana when sophomore J.A. at North Side High School in Fort Wayne was told to remove her bracelet after wearing it to school for three months. No disruption was cited but allegedly J.A. violated the rule about suggestive messages on clothes or jewelry. J.A. and her mother are not seeking money damages, only permission to continue wearing the bracelet. Her mother, Julie Andrzejewski, is a breast cancer survivor and bought the bracelet for her daughter to raise awareness among high school teens.

    Are you offended by the bracelet’s message? Even if you are offended, do you believe Nick should be allowed to wear the bracelet based on freedom of speech? Do the words carry a double meaning that may be seen as inappropriate? What else could you do at school to raise awareness about breast cancer or any other cause that you support?

    *B. H. v. Easton Area School District, 827 F.Supp.2d 392 (2011).

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    14 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • come on now
      Tue, 16 Mar 2010 at 12:34

      Nick is a spoiled kid who probably has never been told no by his mom. He says” I will wear it even if I get detention” but he doesn’t get detention does he? no because mommy is there to get him out of it.
      There are plenty of ways to support breast cancer….
      If the school says you can’t wear the bracelet then don’t wear it. Get a different type of bracelet if you want. If the school says you can’t wear something that is controversial then don’t wear it.
      I think mommy and Nick want attention in their pathetic lives and have decided to make an issue of something that should not be a problem.
      Dear Come on now: Thanks for your thoughts. Loss often evokes strong support and implementation of causes – the adage about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes comes to mind.

    • Doreen Rice
      Tue, 16 Mar 2010 at 05:38

      I find the whole thing ridiculous. This kid has a heart and a mind of his own. A SCIENCE teacher finding this offensive? Did she get her degree at Regent University? I am sure all science there is done in the dark. I applaud this young man for trying to bring awareness to his peers – who may lose Moms and sisters.

      Over reacting puritans!!!

    • Steph
      Wed, 17 Mar 2010 at 05:57

      I am wondering if Nick was a Nicole, Would we of even heard about this,, and yes as a young boy wearing a I (heart) Boobs braclet it could be taken either way, I support what he is doing and fighting for his right to wear a braclet that has meaning to him, atleast it isn’t those colored jelly braclets that every color has a sexual meaning.
      Give the kid a break!!!!
      Dear Steph: Thanks for your input. Good point.

    • kaleena harrington
      Wed, 26 May 2010 at 02:13

      im 13 years old and go to queensbury and were i love boobie braclet to and my gym teacher tells me to turn it over and yells at me if i dont and she says she will send me to the princilbes and she never does and i never turn it over
      Dear Kaleena: It might be helpful if you tell your parents what is happening so they can speak with your gym teacher and the principal. Good luck.
      [This is information only - not legal advice].

    • Karen Wheeler
      Thu, 10 Jun 2010 at 11:52

      I think kids should wear something that does not detract from the learning environment of the school. Let’s face it, boys and girls are likely to giggle about “boobies” or crack jokes or check to see if anybody notices that they are being edgy by wearing the bracelet. That’s a distraction from the classroom learning environment. If they care about breast cancer, they can wear an ribbon or something during school, and wear the bracelet after school, if their parents approve.
      Thanks, Karen, for your comment.

    • hadym child
      Mon, 12 Jul 2010 at 12:10

      i will weare my braclet bc i am a female and obvasly i am not waering it to be rounchy. I am not sure about males but I do tink that we shoild b able to comtinul wearing these until a male OR female students does make an unnesseary commet or rude gester about theese bracletrs
      -Hadyn child♥
      Thanks Hadyn for your comment.

    • pine
      Fri, 10 Sep 2010 at 09:40

      there are many bracelets that represent the support of breast cancer. if it is merely to support breast cancer, he could chose a number of them, or a pink one only, that will not get him in trouble at school, or make any female uncomfortable in the class. IF he insists on “i love boobies”, then i suggest there are other reasons he is wearing it.
      Thanks, Pine, for your view.

    • Askthejudge.info
      Thu, 18 Nov 2010 at 04:58

      In another school free speech case, 2 parents filed lawsuit against school for banning "i heart boobies" bracelet. http://fb.me/tf8yYZAy

    • Askthejudge.info
      Mon, 17 Oct 2011 at 08:19

      School bans #BCA t-shirt. Students have #freespeech right to wear such shirts as long as not lewd or vulgar. http://t.co/GmCITdAz

    • Askthejudge.info
      Mon, 17 Oct 2011 at 08:19

      School bans #BCA t-shirt. Students have #freespeech right to wear such shirts as long as not lewd or vulgar. http://t.co/GmCITdAz

    • steven
      Fri, 13 Jan 2012 at 06:58

      REAllY come on people i think he should be able to wear the bracelets i support every word that he says i come from flordia in mariner middle school and they do have the same rules as any other school (which is dont wear the i heart boobs bracelets) which i find STUPID

    • Hmmm…
      Tue, 23 Oct 2012 at 07:15

      So where does it stop? There are now “I love balls” bracelets. When will the “I love a$$h..les” bracelets come out for colon cancer? School is part academics, but also for preparing kids for jobs and careers. Many companies do not allow the bracelets unless inside out b/c of sexual harassment laws. There are other ways to express support for cancer awareness. Wear the “I love…” bracelets on your own time. Not @ school or work.

    • IT’S OK TO (HEART) BOOBIES IN SCHOOL AGAIN | reportergary.com
      Tue, 13 Aug 2013 at 02:25

      [...] have written about these “I Heart Boobies’’ cases over the past few years where schools have disciplined students for supporting this breast cancer [...]

    • Heather
      Sun, 27 Oct 2013 at 10:17

      I really really want to bookmark this specific posting, “Detention
      for Wearing Bracelet” on my very own web page. Do you really
      mind in the event Ido? Thx ,Esperanza
      No, please feel free to bookmark it. Thanks!

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