No Love for Edgy Message: Cancer Bracelets Rankle Schools

Language on a cancer support bracelet stirs controversy on campuses.

ByKIM CAROLLO, ABC News Medical Unit
September 1, 2010, 2:34 PM

Sept. 2, 2010 -- A 1-inch thick rubber bracelet has caused quite a stir in schools across the country, despite the positive message its wearers believe it sends.

The bracelets say "I [heart] Boobies" and are part of a nationwide campaign launched several months ago to make young people more aware of breast cancer.

The Clovis Unified School District in central California is one of the latest to ban the bracelets. District spokeswoman Kelly Avants told they violate the school's dress code.

"We have an existing dress code that specifically states clothing, jewelry or accessories with sexually suggestive language or images is not allowed at school, said Avants. A number of other school districts require students to flip the bracelets inside out so the word "boobies" is not visible.

Despite some schools' cracking down on the bracelets, students have been vocal about the novelty items on blogs and other sites such as Facebook, saying they want to wear them in support of what they believe is a good cause.

On one of several Facebook pages dedicated to the bracelets, one student wrote, "I wear like 47 boobie bracelets, supportin' cancer research is the way to go!" Another student wrote, "[T]o all the principals who think it's PERVERTED for us to wear them, its [sic] called THE FIRST AMENDMENT."

Parents' opinions are mixed, judging by postings on a variety of parenting blogs.

"While I think raising cancer awareness is important, I don't think 'boobies' is an appropriate word for school," wrote one mother.

"I am 100 percent fine with my child wearing clothing that says 'I Love Boobies. I believe in the cause," wrote another mother.

Keep A Breast, the nonprofit organization that's running the bracelet campaign, said it's geared toward young people, to raise awareness about the disease and educate them about breast health. In addition to bracelets, there are "I [heart] Boobies T-shirts.

"The T-shirts and bracelets act as an awareness-raising tool, allowing young people to engage and start talking about s subject that is scary and taboo," said Kimmy McAtee, a spokeswoman for Keep A Breast.

She also said the organization has other apparel and accessory options for anyone who doesn't like the term "boobies."

"We do fully understand that the 'I Love Boobies' campaign is not for everyone, which is why we provide several other graphics for people to proudly wear," she said. "We also feel that the word 'boobies' is not a four-letter word."

The Fresno Unified School District, also in central California, does allow students to wear the bracelets.

Susan Bedi, the district spokeswoman, told that one principal initially confiscated about 30 of the bracelets, but after administrators learned more about them and what they represented, they decided to return them to the students and allow them to be worn.

"They bring about awareness and donations to cancer research," Bedi said.

Other Organizations Not as Supportive

Other well-known breast cancer organizations are more reticent in their views on the bracelets.

"While Komen for the Cure tends to stick with more mainstream language about breasts, we do understand that young people talk differently than adults," said Andrea Rader, the director of marketing communications of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a network of breast cancer survivors and activists based in Dallas. "We generally support efforts to educate and engage young people, especially young women, about this disease."

The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation in Santa Monica, Calif., expresses some skepticism about how much the "booies" campaign will raise awareness.

"A bracelet is not going to educate anybody," said Naz Sykes, executive director of the foundation. "There has to be an educational component to go with it."

Sykes also said that this campaign is unique because of who it targets.

"I've never seen a campaign targeting kids. This is new."

Keep A Breast, located in Carlsbad, Calif., said it would use a number of campaigns that "use art and artistic expression" to keep young people informed about prevention and early detection of breast cancer. In another recent campaign, Keep a Breast handed out information on breast self-exams at what it called a "traveling education booth."

Keep A Breast also said all the money raised from the bracelet sales goes toward the organization's education and awareness programs.

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