On Monday, still upset by the school’s decision, the sixth-grader started a Facebook page seeking support for his bracelet and the right to wear it.
“I made the page because my teacher said my bracelet was offensive to women … people can take a stand for breast cancer; the money people used to buy these bracelets went to breast cancer foundations,” Ethan wrote on his page. He told StaceyPageOnline.com today that, so far, about 30 people – mostly women – have signed on to his Facebook page in his support.
Last Wednesday, Ethan was told by his teacher, Robin Reichard, that “all women” take offense to the wording on his bracelet and told him if he wore it to school again she would confiscate it and cut it up.
On Friday, Ethan said his teacher made good on at least part of her promise: she took the bracelet away. Ethan asked for a compromise. “I asked if I could just turn it inside out, but they said no,” he explained.
Madison Principal Tom Kline supported the teacher’s decision and told StaceyPageOnline.com today, “It’s not appropriate for school and they’ve been pretty much been banned in every other school. It’s even gone to court and the courts have supported the schools.”
But that really is not the case.
In April 2011, a Federal Court in Pennsylvania ruled in favor of two Easton Area School District middle school students who were suspended for wearing “I (heart) Boobies” bracelets to school. Both of those students have ties to breast cancer victims and survivors.
Judge Mary McLaughlin said in her final ruling that “school-imposed bans of the ‘I Love Boobies’ bracelets are unconstitutional and violate students’ First Amendment rights.”
Further, she wrote, “The bracelets are intended to be and they can reasonably be viewed as speech designed to raise awareness of breast cancer and to reduce stigma associated with openly discussing breast health. The words [I heart boobies] were chosen to enhance the effectiveness of the communication to the target audience.”
For all of those reasons, the court concluded, “It would have been unreasonable for these school officials to conclude that these breast cancer awareness bracelets are lewd or vulgar.”
The school district appealed the judge’s ruling and it is set to be heard by the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit this year.
Even so, Kline said, “If the school board tells me it’s OK, then OK.” And he insists it isn’t anything personal to the student noting he also has two sisters-in-law who are both breast cancer survivors. “Even they say (the bracelets are) not appropriate for school.”
Ethan’s mom, Missy Francis, says she’s proud of her son for taking a stand. “He tried to make a compromise and turn it inside out, but he was still told ‘no.’ They told him there are other cancer awareness bracelets and he could get one of those to wear. Those have no meaning to him like the one he has worn for 8 months without a problem, until Aug. 24,” she said.
Dr. Craig Hintz, superintendent of Warsaw Community Schools, had only this to say on the issue: “We became aware of the matter last Friday and we are currently reviewing it.”
The Keep A Breast Foundation™ is the leading youth-focused, global, nonprofit breast cancer organization that sells “I (heart) Boobies” and “Peace Love Boobies” bracelets. KABF says 100 percent of the net proceeds from the wholesale sales are donated to the foundation to help raise awareness and support of early detection and education programs to eradicate breast cancer.
A statement on the Keep A Breast Foundation’s website says, “We have been seeing these bracelets become in question at several schools. It has been great to see students and parents and even Federal Court Judges rally behind Keep A Breast and become advocates for our cause. We always respond with what the bracelets represent and how important it is to respectfully tell your administrator why you support Keep A Breast.”
For Ethan, the bracelet is a sentimental reminder of the grandmother he lost on Jan. 3, 2011. He said when he looks at the bracelet, he thinks of his grandmother.
Missy Francis added, “My mother and Ethan were very close and I saw what he went through when she died. If he was wearing (the bracelet) and acting inappropriately then I would agree (with the school officials), but I’m a woman and I’m not offended by it, I bought it for him and I know he can’t even say the word ‘boobies’ without his face turning red. It’s not about something dirty.”
UPDATE: Since Ethan started his Facebook page Monday, and since school officials were contacted by StaceyPageOnline.com today, an executive decision was made to allow Ethan the right to wear the bracelet at school, but he must turn it inside out. Missy Francis received the notice via voicemail from principal Tom Kline.