News and Tribune

Education/Schools

August 22, 2013

Judge backs Indiana school’s ’boobies’ bracelets ban

— A federal judge has sided with a Fort Wayne school district’s ban on students wearing “I (heart) Boobies!” bracelets, ruling they were disruptive despite the message of breast cancer awareness.

The ACLU of Indiana filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of a then-sophomore girl at Fort Wayne’s North Side High School after administrators took away her rubber bracelet.

The lawsuit argued that the girl, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, had the free speech right to wear the bracelet, The Journal Gazette reported.

U.S. District Judge Joseph VanBokkelen disagreed in Tuesday’s ruling with arguments that the high school students are mature enough to deal with the bracelet’s sexual innuendo.

School district officials said they banned the bracelets in early 2012 after a male student wearing one began repeating its phrase to girls. They maintained the bracelets were being worn for the students to have a reason to say the word “boobies.”

VanBokkelen supported the school’s decision even though a federal appeals court in Pennsylvania ruled differently Monday, saying a school there can’t ban the bracelet because its message isn’t lewd.

“The evidence in the record reveals a low maturity level at the school,” VanBokkelen wrote. “The school could therefore reasonably conclude that the bracelet contained sexual innuendo that was vulgar within the context of North Side High School.”

Indiana ACLU legal director Ken Falk said he was disappointed with the ruling and that a decision on whether to appeal had not yet been made.

Krista Stockman, a spokeswoman for the Fort Wayne school, said district officials always believed the ban was appropriate.

Several school districts around the country have banned the bracelets, which are distributed by the nonprofit Keep A Breast Foundation of Carlsbad, Calif.

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