Big Brother and Boobies…

In Education on Sunday, 30 September 2012 at 12:15

East Haddam Student Wins Right To Wear ‘Boobies’ Bracelet In School

By KATHLEEN MEGAN, kmegan@courant.comThe Hartford Courant

September 27, 2012

School Had Forbidden Her From Wearing Breast Cancer Awareness Bracelet, But ACLU Of CT Stepped In

After two years of struggle with East Haddamschool officials, Sara Dickinson, a high school senior, is finally free to wear a breast cancerawareness bracelet that says “I (heart) Boobies” and “Keep A Breast” without fear of getting into trouble.

Contending that the bracelet was disruptive, administrators at Nathan Hale-Ray High School banned it. When Sara continued to wear it, they confiscated it once, threatened Sara with detention and later suggested they would get an injunction to force her to stop wearing it.

But after the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut interceded on her behalf last month, the school district had a change of heart.

“It’s nice to know somebody is going to let me exercise my rights,” said Dickinson, who said the bracelet was designed to interest students her age. “The whole point was to get everybody talking, to raise awareness of breast cancer.”

Sandra Staub, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut said, “Sara isn’t the only student whose speech rights have been questioned by school officials around Connecticut. We want to make sure that other students and school officials are aware that students do have free speech rights unless their speech fits within very limited categories.”

Dickinson, an honors student and a member of the high school debate team, began wearing the bracelet as a sophomore because her grandmother died of breast cancer and other relatives have had the disease.

Along with other students, she purchased the bracelet for $4 through The Keep A Breast Foundation, which claims on its website to be “the leading youth-focused, global, nonprofit breast cancer organization.”

For a few months she and others wore the bracelets without an issue, but then later in the fall, high school Principal Eric Spencer announced a ban on the bracelets, Dickinson said. East Haddam Superintendent Mary Beth Iacobelli, who was hired by the district in July, said she was told that the bracelets were banned because they were “a disruption, a distraction from teaching and learning.”

Believing the ban was unjust, Dickinson continued to wear the bracelet.

“I could see how [the bracelet] could be distracting but my rationale was that kids in my school walk around with hair that is absolutely neon pink,” Dickinson said. “Well, I really feel that neon pink hair is much more distracting than a white bracelet.”

An English teacher confiscated the bracelet, but it was eventually returned. Over the course of two years, Dickinson said, she wore the bracelet but was always worried it might be taken away. She was threatened with detention at one point. In her sophomore year, she presented her case to the school board, but she says she never heard back from them.

Last June, the school administration approached her with a compromise, Dickinson said. They proposed that East Haddam students come up with their own design for a breast cancer bracelet to replace the “boobies” model. They suggested, she said, that if she didn’t agree they would get an injunction to force her to stop wearing the “boobies” bracelet to school.

“They wanted kids to design a bracelet that would not be offensive to anyone,” Dickinson said, but she said the bracelet didn’t offend kids. “I think adults are a lot more offended by most things in general. I feel like the older generation can be set in traditional ways.”

Dickinson turned the offer down and called the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut for help.

In an August letter to Eric Spencer, the ACLU‘s Staub quoted from two U.S. Supreme Court rulings that said school officials may forbid speech only when it threatens to “materially or substantially interfere with … the operations of the school” or if it contains “vulgar and lewd speech” that would “undermine the school’s basic educational mission.”

“Sara’s bracelet does neither,” Staub’s letter said.

Iacobelli said the administration respects “kids’ right to support this cause or any cause. … We have many of our kids affected by family members who have cancer.”

She said students will be allowed to wear the bracelet, but will be accountable for their behavior. If the bracelets lead to a disruption or interference with teaching, she said, “We would address it on an individual basis, as opposed to banning bracelets across the board.”

Copyright © 2012, The Hartford Courant

Retrieved from: http://www.ctnow.com/news/hc-boobie-bracelet-0928-20120927,0,284886.story?hpt=us_bn7


Thanks for your comments!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: