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Students see a victory for free speech in schools

When taken out of context, seeing "I [heart] boobies" in a middle school may seem like an inappropriate comment from a 13-year-old boy, however a recent Supreme Court case marks a huge victory for students and breast cancer awareness in the United States.

Freedom of speech and public schools in the U.S. have frequently butted heads dating back to the 1960s when a group of students decided to wear black arm bands as a sign of protest against the Vietnam War. Two students in particular wore these armbands to their high school and were subsequently sent home and suspended after the principal had warned them about the consequences of doing so. When the court case was brought to the Supreme Court, the vote was 7 to 2 in favor of the students, stating that the armbands needed to present a significant interference in the operations of the school in order to justify the punishment they received.

There have been a number of similar rulings throughout the years, some in favor of students, while others, such as the "Bong hits 4 Jesus," case, which reached the Supreme Court in 2007, ruled against the rights of students. When it comes to the freedom of speech rights of students, issues can get hazy as the duty of a school is to educate – a task that some feel student speech could prohibit. This is apparently how the Easton, Pennsylvania middle school felt when it decided to issue two in-school suspensions to students who were wearing bracelets showing support for breast cancer awareness.

Boobies and freedom of speech
The bracelets, which read "I [heart] boobies," are a part of the Keep a Breast Foundation's campaign to raise awareness for the disease. However, the school administration felt that the appropriate response to such wristbands would be the issuing of an in-school suspension and banning from the school's winter ball for two female students, according to a Washington Post Op-Ed. This is because the administration felt that the suggestive double meaning of the bracelet was inappropriate for a middle school setting.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court ruled in their favor, marking an important right for the voices of students in the country. The message of the bracelets was deliberately supposed to elicit the double meaning, making it both funny as well at thought provoking, but apparently for school administrators, this double meaning was too inappropriate. However, in such situations it is important to remember the work that these bracelets do, and as an extension, free speech among students does. That is, raise awareness among a younger population about the causes whose issues are likely to become more significant in their adult lives.

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