“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” is one of those famous aphorisms often mistakenly attributed to Sigmund Freud, who was keenly interested in all forms of sexual expression, especially the unconscious. But the founder of psychoanalysis would have met his match in a Pennsylvania school board that is really, really interested in boobies.
In a 7-1 vote, the Easton Area School District voted on Tuesday night to ask the United States Supreme Court to decide whether a bracelet carrying the message, “I (heart) Boobies" is obscene and should be barred from being worn in schools. The bracelet, designed to build awareness of breast cancer, was banned by school officials and was challenged by two students in 2010.
Despite the ban, the girls, Kayla Martinez, then 12, and Brianna Hawk, then 13, wore the bracelets to a middle school, and were suspended. The American Civil Liberties Union took up the case and sued.
After nearly three years of litigation about students’ free speech rights, the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals rejected school district claims in an August 9-5 ruling that the slogan was lewd or disruptive. Tuesday’s action by the school board paves the way for the nation’s top court to decide whether the word “boobies” is constitutionally protected.
Schools Supt. John Reinhart told the Express-Times that he fully backed the school board’s decision to move ahead with an appeal.
"The Third Circuit Court has compromised administrators' abilities to intervene in what is and what is not appropriate in school," he said to the newspaper.
In court proceedings, Reinhart had called the bracelets “cause-based marketing energized by sexual double-entendres.”
The only board member to vote against the appeal said the school district should have given up on the issue.
“I think we should be done with it. Let it go. We lost 20, 30 times, I don’t even know anymore,” Frank Pintabone said.
But board member Baron Vanderburg called it a difficult decision and said the board did a lot of “kicking and screaming” before it came to an agreement on what to do next.
“We as a whole feel like it was the right thing to do,” he said.
Easton is one of several school districts around the country to ban the bracelets, which are distributed by the nonprofit Keep a Breast Foundation of Carlsbad, Calif.