WALDOBORO, Maine — A high school is backing down from its ban on “I [heart] boobies” bracelets, which are designed to raise awareness for breast cancer.
After some media attention and calls from attorneys, SAD 40 Superintendent Susan Pratt said Medomak Valley High School called off the ban Friday. By that time, several students had been suspended for refusing to take off their bracelets.
“We didn’t want to make it a bigger deal than it is,” Pratt said.
The school banned the bracelets because school rules say student’s can’t wear anything with sexual connotations. Now, all students who were suspended for bracelet-related reasons will have their suspensions erased from their school records.
Pratt said although it was against school rules to wear the bracelets, that wasn’t the reason any students were suspended. They were suspended for “insubordination,” she said.
Pratt explained that students weren’t suspended for wearing the bracelets, they were suspended for not taking them off when asked.
Medomak Valley High School students will no longer be asked to remove the bracelets.
“We decided to deal with the disruption it was causing, not the bracelets,” Pratt said.
Students can wear their rubbery bands, but if a high-schooler makes a crude comment about the “I [heart] boobie” bracelets, he or she will be disciplined.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, which spoke out against the bracelet ban, calling it unlawful, supports the changes.
“We applaud the school’s decision to end its censorship policy. We think the school has made the right decision to allow students to express breast cancer support through the bracelet. The school did the right thing,” said ACLU Maine director Shenna Bellows. “This was a success because students and parents stood up for their free speech rights.”
Bellows wasn’t sure how many other schools in Maine, if any, have banned the bracelets. Superintendent Pratt said her school is not alone in this school-rule-making struggle.
The “I [heart] boobies” bracelets are a national issue. Earlier this year in Pennsylvania, a federal judge ordered a high school district to allow its students to wear the bracelets after two girls filed a lawsuit when they were told not to wear them.
“We’re not the only place that has these bracelets [in Maine]. But we got in the media first,” Pratt said.