By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON, March 10 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a school district's appeal over an attempt by officials to ban breast cancer awareness bracelets bearing the message "I (heart sign) boobies," handing victory to two students who challenged the decision on free speech grounds.
The court's decision not to take up the case means that an August 2013 ruling by the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of students Brianna Hawk and Kayla Martinez is left intact.
School officials at Easton Area Middle School banned seventh- and eighth-grader students from wearing the bracelets in October 2010 prior to national Breast Cancer Awareness Day. At the time, Hawk was in eighth grade and Martinez was in seventh.
The bracelets are sold by a group called the Keep-A-Breast Foundation, which supports breast cancer awareness. The group has expressed support on its website for students who have worn the bracelets against the wishes of school officials.
Both girls continued to wear the bracelets, citing their freedom of speech rights, and refused to remove them when asked. School officials punished the girls by giving them 1 1/2-day in-school suspension. The girls also initially were banned from the school's winter ball, although they were later allowed to attend. The school district eventually banned the bracelets from all schools.
The girls, through their mothers, sued the school district in federal court in November 2010. In April 2011, the district court issued an injunction preventing the school from disciplining students for wearing the bracelets.
The case is Easton Area School District v. B.H., U.S. Supreme Court, 13-672. (Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Bill Trott)