The controversy surrounding "I (heart) boobies" bracelets rages on, after four students from Michigan's White Cloud High School were suspended for one day earlier this month, for refusing to relinquish their wrist bands designed to raise breast cancer awareness. And now the ACLU has entered the fray in Michigan, supporting the suspended students' constitutional right to wear the bracelets, and threatening to sue if the school board doesn't reverse their ban.
It seemed as if the issue had been settled earlier this year, when a Pennsylvania court upheld students' right to sport the bracelets, which sell for around $4 each from breast-cancer-awareness group KeepaBreast.org. In that ruling, Judge Mary McLaughlin had stated:
"The bracelets are intended to be and they can reasonably be viewed as speech designed to raise awareness of breast cancer and to reduce stigma associated with open discussing breast health. The words [I heart boobies] were chosen to enhance the effectiveness of the communication to the target audience."
And there lies the rub. Bracelets that read "I (heart) boobies" will always sell more than ones that read "I support the fight against breast cancer," and thus raise more funds for a serious cause. But "boobies" is apparently the wrong synonym for "breasts," upsetting some teachers and school-board members. Strangely, White Cloud School Superintendent Barry Seabrook does permit students to wear t-shirts featuring slang words for "breasts" which could be considered more offensive than "boobies." According to Seabrook:
"One had the word 'ta tas' on it. One had 'funbags.' One had a picture of deer antlers that stated 'Check your rack.' I told them those were pretty borderline, but I could live with it. I couldn't live with 'boobie bracelets.'"
ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman said that White Cloud staff had removed student-posted flyers explaining the Pennsylvania decision, and reiterated the specific purpose in using the word "boobies":
"The word 'boobies' is a term picked by national cancer-awareness groups to speak to young people who might not be as receptive to other types of slogans. It's not a word that was picked out of the blue. It's been a very successful campaign to speak to young people about breast-cancer issues."