MCSD responds to ACLU allegations

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The Moffat County School District responded Friday to a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union regarding the district’s actions on students wearing breast cancer awareness bracelets.

In a news release, the school district stated that administrators never banned the bracelets, which read “I (heart) Boobies. Keep a Breast Alive!”

The school district “did try, in isolated individual instances, to find alternatives to the bracelet that did not cause interruptions to our primary goals of teaching and learning,” the district said in the release.

In a memo addressed to the school community, including administrators, faculty, staff and parents, district superintendent Joe Petrone said the school district would not comment beyond the release because the issue “was recently placed into the legal arena.”

The bracelets are distributed by the Keep A Breast Foundation, which has a mission “to help eradicate breast cancer by exposing young people to methods of prevention, early detection and support,” according to the foundation’s website.

The ACLU’s letter to the district states it was written on behalf of a Craig Middle School eighth-grader who purchased several of the bracelets while on spring break.

The student was told by CMS Assistant Principal Jill Hafey to remove the bracelet, and Hafey informed other students at the school they were not allowed to wear them, infringing on the students’ First Amendment rights, according to the ACLU’s letter.

ACLU Communications Director Rosemary Harris Lytle said when students were told they could not wear the bracelets, it constituted a ban, regardless if it was put into policy.

“When a school forbids something, they say, ‘If you wear that to school, you will be sent home to change … (or) disciplined in some way,” she said. “That’s a ban because it carries with it some penalties.”

The letter indicates the middle school student understood that if she didn’t remove the bracelet, she would be disciplined.

In its letter, the ACLU cites a case last month that was brought by the organization against a Pennsylvania middle school that banned the bracelets.

According to the letter, the court found the ban didn’t constitute “an objectively reasonable exercise of a public school’s authority to ban lewd or vulgar speech.”

“In that case, the three principals of Easton Area Middle School banned ‘I (heart) Boobies! Keep a Breast Alive’ bracelets because they believed the term ‘boobies’ was ‘inappropriate’ for young people, was ‘vulgar’ and could be construed as having a sexual connotation,” the letter states.

“Given the remarkable factual similarities between Easton Area School District and the instant case, a court would almost certainly find that the school’s decision to prohibit (the student) from wearing bracelets in support of breast cancer awareness cannot be justified under the United States Constitution.”

The ACLU letter ends with a request for the school district to contact the organization by May 19, or the ACLU will “consider appropriate next steps.”

Harris Lytle said Friday afternoon that the ACLU hadn’t heard back from the district.

According to the school district, students were encouraged to wear the bracelets inside out as an alternative. However, the school district also reported that students will now be allowed to wear the bracelets without issue from administrators.

“Though reasonable and generally accepted, the approach led to accusations that MCSD was restricting the open expression of our students on matters of cancer awareness,” the district said. “In the interest of relieving expressed concerns and misunderstandings, students may wear the bracelets.”

The district said its actions were intended to limit interruption to teachers or students, not to restrict conversation on cancer awareness.

“Parents can rest assured that our vigilance over needless interruptions and learning will not be compromised,” the district said.

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Comments

obamablows 3 years, 7 months ago

once again we have the district throwing their wheight around I'm sure there was a total student uprising because people were wearing "boobie" bracelets PLEASE !!! what a joke would anybody be sent home if someone was offended by a WWJD bracelet or a LIVE STRONG bracelet wich is another cancer bracelet yes some kids are wearing them because they say boobies but to others they may have meaning. TO MUCH POWER IN THE DISTRICT AS USUAL !!!

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bridy 3 years, 7 months ago

On March 7, 2011 I emailed the following letter to Mr. Schnellinger (HS Principal), Joe Petrone (Superintendent), the editor of the Blue Print, and the Craig Daily Press.

To Whom it May Concern,

I am writing this e-mail to express my concern, disappointment, and how truly offended I am by the Moffat County High School's stance on Breast Cancer Awareness, specifically on the Keep a Breast Foundation.  I just finished reading the High School news paper the "Moffat County High School Blue Print".  In it there is an article written by a brave young lady who should be rewarded for her efforts to right a horrible wrong going on in our school. The article that I am referring to is headlined, "Breast Cancer Awareness in Schools Banned". 
I am a breast cancer survivor.  I have two aunts who are currently fighting breast cancer.  A few hours before I read this article, I received a phone call from my Mother to tell me that one of her dear friends died of breast cancer over the weekend.  Our school district has lost staff to this disease, and has staff currently fighting breast cancer.
I am a huge supporter of the efforts that the Keep a Breast Foundation is doing to bring awareness to teens.  They have instituted programs within high schools across the country to support awareness in teens (High School Art Jam and Clubs http://www.keep-a-breast.org/programs/high-school-art-jam-and-clubs/). The majority of their programs target young people; Keep A Breast This is My Story Campaign http://www.keep-a-breast.org/programs/keep-a-breast-this-is-my-story-campaign/ and Keep A Breast I Love Boobies Campaign http://www.keep-a-breast.org/programs/i-love-boobies/ are just two of them.  From their web site, “I Love Boobies Campaign is a unique national campaign that develops a new approach and positive style of communication about breast cancer. The campaign is meant to encourage young people to target their breast health. The T-shirts and bracelets act as an awareness-raising tool, allowing young people to engage and start talking about a subject that is scary and taboo and making it positive and upbeat.”

~continued in next post~

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bridy 3 years, 7 months ago

~continued from previous post~

The article in the school newspaper states, "In early January, MCHS faculty received an email from school principle Thom Schnellinger, stating that students are not to wear the bracelets anymore and are to be sent to the office if they refuse to take the bracelet off."  As a breast cancer survivor, and as a parent of three Moffat County School District students, two of them High School students, I am appalled!  I have no intention of banning my children from wearing the clothing and accessories, including the bracelets.  I am willing to defend their right to support me, our family, friends, and a worthy cause. 
This decision needs to be immediately reversed.  Our right to support charitable causes, and to support people who desperately need a support system can not be taken away from us or our children.  The many other schools who support this cause, and the programs that they have in place specifically for high school students shows that this is not an obscene or offensive foundation.  I support freedom of speech and freedom of expression, I expect our schools to do the same.  As the article points out, "In the 1970's, the Supreme Court sided with students in the Tinker v. Des Moines case.  Students protested the Vietnam War by wearing black armbands to school.  The Supreme Court decided this was a form of freedom of expression, allowing students to wear the armbands.  The same standard should apply today for students wearing the "I love boobies" bracelets.  Everyone who wears a Boobies bracelet is supporting a cause without being disruptive and it doesn't infringe upon the rights of others."

Thank you,

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obamablows 3 years, 7 months ago

From what I gathered from the front page of the Blue Print was it would be ok to wear a RAINBOW SHIRT or GAY RIGHTS bracelet but you wear an "I LOVE BOOBIES" bracelet and your sent home great message MCHS

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wellwell 3 years, 7 months ago

Is it the word "boobies" that sets the trigger? Should the proper word be "breasts"?

Is it the phrase "I love" offensive? More power to you if you do love!

Is the whole phrase "I love boobies" offensive? Maybe that phrase is disrepectful to females sexually: whereas breasts are anatomical. Is "I love breasts any better"?

It maybe more respectful, not accurate to a better message,

" I respect breast health"

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GRAMMY 3 years, 7 months ago

I am a 2 time survivor and feel blessed to know one of these girls. They have so much to spend there money on. things like cigarettes. beer, pot,etc. and they choose to spend it on BOOBIES to help support cancer research. Moffat county schools should be ASHAMED. Thank you girs for supporting cancer research ...... GRAMMY

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Jon Pfeifer 3 years, 7 months ago

I think there is definitely a line here. I don't think these shirts crossed that line. There are countless crass ways to refer to certain parts of the body. I probably don't know many of the terms that are being used today by students. Boobies is not particularly crass in my mind... it's actually a fairly innocent way to refer to that part of the body. In the context of the message, the organization has to refer to that part of the body because their entire mission is in support of breast cancer education.

I think there is a line. What if a t-shirt with a similar message had a picture of a female's naked breasts? What if there was an overtly sexual message, as opposed to the double meaning on the band that is explained by the second sentence ("keep a breast alive.") Think of how crass other cancer awareness slogans could be. One could only imagine the t-shirts in support of testicular cancer education. I won't post any ideas here because I don't think they would remain.

I agree with people above that dress codes and even uniforms help focus students more on education and less on social life. I don't think I would have agreed with that when I was in high school.

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