EASTON, Pa. – Easton County taxpayers are now on the hook for a $385,000 settlement after a four-year legal battle over the school district’s attempt to ban “I Heart Boobies” cancer awareness bracelets.
Brianna Hawk and Kayla Martinez sued the Easton Area School District with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union after school officials in October 2010 disciplined the former middle school students for wearing the popular wristbands, the Allentown Morning Call reports.
The girls argued the district’s policy violated their First Amendment rights, and the U.S. District Court and 3rd Court of Appeals agreed, ruling that the bracelets are protected speech because they are a social or political statement. Despite the legal losses, district officials attempted to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but were forced to acknowledge defeat after the high court refused to hear the case in March, according to the news site.
“’I am happy we won this case, because it’s important that students have the right to stand up for a cause and try to make a difference. We just wanted to raise awareness about breast cancer,’ said Briana Hawk, who was in eighth grade at Easton Area Middle School when she was suspended, along with seventh grader Kayla Martinez, for wearing the rubber bracelets on the school’s Breast Cancer Awareness Day …,” the ACLU announced in a press release after the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
“Plaintiff Kayla Martinez said, “This whole experience has taught me that speaking up about issues that really matter to young people really makes a difference, even if you’re only in seventh grade.”
The Morning Call reports “ACLU attorney Mary Catherine Roper said Monday her organization and the school district reached an agreement on attorney fees and costs through negotiations, rather than continuing to litigate over what rate and how many hours were appropriate to determine the attorney fees.”
“Roper said Hawk and Martinez did not seek money in their lawsuit, and the fees paid by the school district under the settlement agreement will compensate the ACLU for its work on the case.”
The grand total comes to $385,000 paid in three installments over the next nine months, which is on top of the $110,000 the district has already spent defending the case, though the school district’s insurance company covered most of that expense, according to the news site.
All of the commenters on the Morning Call story agreed that the entire case was a humungous waste of time and money.
“This entire lawsuit really is one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard,” buhusky wrote. “The school administrators really must not have anything else going on if they wanted to pursue the case of the bracelet. Such a great way to spend my tax dollars! Glad we really don’t have anything else important to spend it on. Thanks guys!”
“And the taxpayers pick up the tab for this insanity over absolutely nothing,” David-Allentown posted.