U.S. District Court saw some awkward moments today as a judge heard arguments about whether boobies is a vulgar word and therefore can be banned by school administrators.
The case came to court in Philadelphia after the Easton School District forbade the wearing of the "I (Heart) Boobies" bracelets, and suspended two eighth-grade girls who refused to remove them.
The students said the word wasn't offensive to anyone and that a ban on the bracelets violated their right to free speech.
The school district said other students might consider the word vulgar. In addition, girls wearing the bracelet might inadvertently encourage bad behavior by their male classmates. Administrators said that since the school code does not allow vulgarities they have the right to ban the wrist bands.
But how to define vulgarity?
Two girls took the witness stand to talk about boobies and whether the word might encourage a 13-year-old boy to reflect on something other than cancer awareness.
The school district lawyer with the task of quizzing the girls - one 13, another 12, - was John E. Freund III, who tried hard to be gentlemanly about it.
"No reason to be nervous," he assured the two Easton Area Middle School students.
The teens were composed as they took the stand before Judge Mary McLaughlin.
"That phrase, 'I Love Boobies,' do you see any other meaning to that? Say especially from boys' perspective?" Freund asked 13-year-old Brianna Hawk.
"No." Hawk said.
"Do you thinks boys would have a natural attraction to girls breasts?" Freund asked.
"Yes," Hawk said.
"So couldn't it possibly mean something else?"
"No," insisted Hawk, because in the context of the bracelet that simply was not possible, she said.
Kayla Martinez, 12, conceded some boys could behave in a less than mature fashion. But they, she said dismissively, are boys who "act like they are two."
The bracelets are part of an advertising campaign by the Keep a Breast Foundation, a small, Los Angeles-based nonprofit. The foundation teaches girls how to prevent and detect breast cancer. Sales of the bracelets fund its mission.
Hawk and Martinez said they had permission from their parents to wear the bracelets, even after they learned the school had banned them.
The girls were suspended for a day-and-a-half for "defiance, disruption and disrespect," after refusing to remove the bracelets and then giving each other a "low five" as they were escorted to the administrator's office.
Their parents approved the American Civil Liberties Union stepping in to handle the suit.
A public relations executive for the foundation resisted agreeing on the stand that boobies could have a sexual connotation, but acknowledged a porn star had asked to market the bracelets. The nonprofit turned her down, the executive said.
The case continues this afternoon.