Kayla Martinez, then 14, speaking to reporters outside the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia last February about her school's ban on breast-cancer-awareness bracelets.Matthew Rourke/AP
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania two young women, Kayla Martinez and Brianna Hawk, have been fighting for nearly three years for the right to wear "I (heart) boobies! / Keep a breast" breast-cancer-awareness bracelets to school. Their middle school banned the bracelets and punished the two girls for refusing to take them off. The American Civil Liberties Union stepped in on their behalf.
"'Boobies' is a word young girls use to talk about their bodies," said the girls' ACLU attorney Mary Catherine Roper. "The whole point of the Keep a Breast Foundation is to get young women talking about and comfortable with their breasts."
But the school district has stood firm against the bracelets. "Our argument was that they could reasonably be construed as a sexual double entendre that appealed to prurient interests," said John Freund, a lawyer for the school district. "The boys at that age in particular see that as an invitation to ask the girls about their breasts."
A letter from a former seventh-grade teacher to Lehigh Valley, Pa., newspaper The Morning Call expressed support for the ban, saying that in her class all it would take was a line like "The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow" to create "pandemonium" among 12-year-olds.
"I think that's kind of silly," says Brianna Hawk, who started eleventh grade this month and says her favorite subject is history. "Most of the kids I hang out with and I talk to are mature people. We all have health class."
In August a U.S. court of appeals decided in the girls' favor.
"It's definitely an exciting feeling that we won," says Hawk. "But it's also a really good feeling that we did stand up for something we believe in and that the court sees that we were trying to do something good. We weren't wearing it for no reason. We were wearing it because we wanted to show our support for breast-cancer survivors and fighters."
It's believed that within the next month or so, the school district will petition the Supreme Court for review. Some court watchers believe the case could have a significant effect on students' right to self-expression.
But Amy Martinez, Kayla's mother, hopes the Third Circuit decision will be the end of it. The family moved out of district, she says, to escape the pressure of people complaining that they were causing taxes to rise by keeping the case in the courts and that they should teach their children to just follow the rules and not make such a fuss about fashion trends.
"Yeah, it was a fashion trend," says Martinez. "Some of them are bad, and some of them are good, but this one was great." She notes that her aunt lost her breasts in a cancer fight and that her death deeply affected Kayla. "I don't let her walk around in miniskirts and fishnet stockings. She wore a bracelet. I mean, there are worse things she could have done."
She is proud of Kayla, who's about to turn 16, and says she's looking forward to the day when what her daughter wears -- lately, flower shirts and sandals, soccer cleats and shin guards -- can go back to being no one's business but theirs.