INDIANA — TheACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit against Fort Wayne Community Schools on May 18over an “I (Heart) Boobies” breast cancer awareness bracelet.
Julie Andrzejewski is suing the district on behalf of herdaughter, referred to only as “J.A.” in the complaint, a sophomore at NorthSide High School. Andrzejewski is a breast cancer survivor, and purchased thebracelet for her daughter. The bracelets support the Keep A Breast Foundation, whose website URL can be found on the inner lining of the bracelets.
The daughter started wearing the bracelet to school inDecember 2011 and received no complaints until March, when an assistantprincipal confiscated the bracelet. Although the bracelet was later returned,she was not allowed to wear it at school again, according to the lawsuit.
“There was really no ruckus at all because of the bracelet,” Andrzejewski said in an interview with Fort Wayne NewsChannel 15.
The school district dress code prohibits students fromwearing anything containing “slogans, sayings or messages that are solicitous,profane, obscene” and “any written material or pictures that convey anoffensive, threatening, demeaning or sexually suggestive message,” according tothe lawsuit.
Andrzejewski said her daughter felt that the braceletneither contributed to disruption at school, nor did it seem to violate any ofthese specifications.
“I had gone over the handbook and I don’t feel that it was avulgar, you know, saying on the bracelet,” Andrzejewski said. “My concern isthat there’s not enough awareness amongst people out there, and that was kindof the whole reason behind her even wearing the bracelet. Not only for me…[but] for other kids to be comfortable expressing how they feel about breastcancer awareness.”
ACLU Attorney Kenneth Falk believes the sophomore’s FirstAmendment rights were violated.
“The actions of the defendant in denying J.A. the abilityand right to wear the “I (Heart) Boobies!” bracelet violates the freedom ofspeech and expression which J.A. possesses by virtue of the First Amendment tothe United States Constitution and is therefore unconstitutional,” Falk wrotein the complaint.
Teachers in Fort Wayne have gone to the extent of cuttingthe bracelets off of other students, according to the lawsuit.
The suit comes a day after Falk notified the same court of asettlement in another lawsuit involving the same bracelets at an Indiana middleschool. Both sides came to an agreement, but the terms of the settlement havenot yet been disclosed.
Lawsuits over the “I (Heart) Boobies” bracelets have alsobeen filed in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The Wisconsin case was dropped, but afederal appeals court is currently considering the Pennsylvania suit.
Andrzejewski’s lawsuit does not seek any money damages. Itasks for a court order allowing her daughter to wear the bracelets, and for theschool corporation to cover her court costs.
Falk could not be reached for comment on either the FortWayne lawsuit or the settlement.
A FWCS spokeswoman was not available for comment.
By Nikki McGee, SPLC staff writer