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Easton School Board taking "I (Heart) Boobies" bracelets case to U.S. Supreme Court

By Tom De Martini, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 12:48:51 PM CST
Updated On: Oct 30 2013 09:31:58 AM CDT

Easton appeals bracelets case

EASTON, Pa. -

The controversial 'I ? Boobies' legal case that started when two Easton Area Middle School students were suspended for wearing bracelets sporting the moniker in 2010 could be headed to the nation's highest court.

The Easton Area School Board voted virtually unanimously Tuesday night to allow solicitor John Freund to petition an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn an August ruling allowing students wearing 'I ? Boobies' bracelets by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

The 3rd Circuit ruling stated that banning students from donning the pink bracelets is an unconstitutional restriction of free speech.

Third Circuit judges, in a 9-5 vote in August, ruled that the Easton Area School District went beyond its boundaries by suspending Easton Area Middle School students Brianna Hawk and Kayla Martinez in 2010 for wearing the 'I ? Boobies' bracelets to school.

School District solicitor John Freund said the decision to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was due in part to the importance of the case on a constitutional basis and the support the district has received from the National School Boards Association and the National Association of School Psychiatrists.

Freund said the case has a "reasonable chance" of being selected by the Supreme Court for a hearing, due to the "hyper-sexual" subject matter.

In 2011, a U.S. District Judge overturned the school district's ban on the bracelets, allowing students to wear them in class. The district appealed twice before the 3rd Circuit Court, losing both times, most recently in August.

Easton Superintendent of Schools John Reinhart said the most recent court decision impacts administrators ability to decide what is and isn't appropriate in schools.

"We're pursuing it further to get some clarity," Reinhart said. "We're searching for that fine line. It's an important issue. Maintaining and controlling a high school environment is truly a challenge. We've got support from other places and the district won't have big costs."

The Supreme Court appeal is expected to cost the school district between $2,000 and $3,000, according to Freund.

School Director Frank Pintabone cast the lone dissenting vote.

"If there were a reasonable chance to overturn it, I'd be in favor. I say just let it go," Pintabone said.

Other school directors weighed in with their reasoning behind the vote.

"If the same members of the board (from 2010) were sitting here, I doubt we'd be doing this. It will be of greater value to the country if we have this debate," said school director Dr. Robert Moskaitis.

"It's a difficult decision. I did it kicking and screaming," said school director Baron Vanderburg. "But, it's the right thing to do.

Easton PTA President Dr. Tara Gilligan chided the board for pursuing a case "that seems silly," and scolded members for a lack of transparency.

"There was a lot of thought and care put into this," Freund said. "Most things like this are non-transparent."

In other business, the school board voted to ratify a contract for 82 custodians and 53 administrative professionals who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

The retroactive contract gives the custodians wage increases of 2% for the next three years. The administrative professionals received wage increases of 3.7%, 3.5% and 3.3% for the next three years. Both groups will see contributions for medical coverage and doctor visit co-pays increase.

Board President Robert Fehnel thanked the administrative professionals for taking a pay freeze in the interim.