Sara Dickinson, whose family has a history of breast cancer, may now wear a bracelet that says "I ♥ Boobies" and "Keep a Breast" to Nathan Hale-Ray High School in East Haddam without fear of detention. In a victory for students, the school and free speech, the principal has told Sara's family that students may wear the bracelets, which support breast cancer research and breast cancer survivors.
In her sophomore year, after the principal announced that students could no longer wear "I ♥ Boobies" bracelets, Sara briefly stopped wearing hers to school. She resumed wearing it after her friend's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. School officials confiscated the bracelet on two occasions, threatened Sara with detention if she refused to remove it and suggested they would get an injunction to force her to stop wearing it.
Sara, now a senior, and her family asked the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut for help. On August 8, 2012, the ACLU of Connecticut sent a letter to the high school principal, reminding him of students' First Amendment rights and asking for assurance that students would be allowed to wear the bracelets.
Earlier this month, the principal told Sara's mother, Terry Dickinson, that Sara would be permitted to wear the bracelet. The ACLU of Connecticut commends school officials for recognizing the core principle of free speech and for providing a valuable lesson to students about the First Amendment.
"The school district has made the right decision. Public school students have free speech rights that can't be violated merely because school officials dislike the message or the way it's expressed," said Sandra Staub, legal director of the ACLU of Connecticut. "While restrictions can be placed on speech that threatens a substantial disruption in the school or on speech that is so lewd and vulgar as to undermine the educational mission, Sara's bracelet caused no such harm."
- Sept. 26, 2012
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