The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected Easton Area School District’s (EASD) petition asking the Court to review the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s en banc decision in B.H. v. EASD, according to an Express-Times report in the Pocono Record. The Court’s rejection leaves in place the Third Circuit’s 2013 decision striking down a ban on students wearing I ♥ boobies bracelets. The precedent set by the Third Circuit that the bracelets represent a form of protected free speech applies to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. The American Civil Liberties Union brought the suit against EASD on behalf of Easton Area Middle School students, who wore the bracelets in October 2010 despite a school-wide ban and were suspended from school.
Noting that very few cases reach the Supreme Court level, John Freund, the attorney representing EASD, said he was disappointed nonetheless. “Local school authorities need the ability to enforce dress codes and maintain reasonable decorum of the manner of expression in an educational environment, while respecting the legitimate rights of students to express themselves,” Freund said.
In Freund’s opinion, the Third Circuit Court’s decision departed from previous Supreme Court precedent on the subject, which likely means a similar case will be heard sometime in the future. “Indications are that the Supreme Court will one day revisit that question,” Freund wrote. “Unfortunately, it will take more lawsuits, more attorneys’ fees and more chaos in the classroom before we get the answer.”
Mary Catherine Roper, an ACLU attorney who represented the students, applauded the Supreme Court’s decision. She said the Third Circuit Court’s decision opened the door to protecting student speech on political and social issues, even if the language used is sometimes considered lewd.
Source: Pocono Record, 3/11/14, By Sarah W. Wojcik (Express-Times)
[Editor's Note: In January 2014, Legal Clips published a Sua Sponte item reporting that the National School Boards Association (NSBA), along with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and a number of other education associations, had filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on January 6, 2014, in support of Easton Area School District’s (EASD) petition for certiorari. The item contains a link to the brief.]