'I Heart Boobies' Bracelets a Free Speech Issue?

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on April 18, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The "I Heart Boobies" First Amendment case is back in the courts. The question before the courts: Vulgar sexual innuendo or constitutionally protected free speech?

Breast cancer awareness bracelets with the slogan "I Heart Boobies" began making their way to the wrists of public school students across the country. Different courts came to different conclusions. Yesterday, a Philadelphia federal appeals court heard oral arguments in the case of two students at Easton Area Middle School.

The school argued that the bracelets were lewd. They raised the issue of "double meaning", citing a case from the 1980's, where a student made comments that carried a suggestive meaning despite the lack of actual vulgar words.

Context will be key here. In the past, courts have examined such comments in light of context. Are the comments carrying a greater message, or are they disruptive?

Obviously, "I Heart Boobies" bracelets won't cause the same commotion among mature adults than they would around middle school students. According to the Easton Area School District, there actually were boys who made inappropriate comments to girls after seeing the bracelets-- things like "I like your boobies."

Another argument against the protection of the speech is that it could open the door to similar slogans for other forms of cancer, say, testicular cancer, slogans such as "Feel By Balls," the District Solicitor argued.

Is "I Heart Boobies" protected speech? Or is it distruptive and laced with innuendo?

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