Middle School Boys Cause Stir With Breast Cancer Awareness Bracelets

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(Host) At Brattleboro Area Middle School, a debate is brewing over bracelets meant to promote awareness about breast cancer.

The bracelets have been banned because they use a controversial slang term.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) The bracelets are like the rubber wrist bands pioneered by cyclist Lance Armstrong’s "Live Strong" cancer awareness campaign.

They say "I… heart…" and then the word that Brattleboro middle school principal Ingrid Chrisco say is inappropriate for school.

(Chrisco) "And the lettering is quite large and pronounced: ‘I love boobie.’ And then on the outside in parentheses it says, ‘Keep a breast.’"

(Keese) Chrisco says that when the first bracelet appeared, she had a talk with the boy who’d worn it to school.

(Chrisco) "And I said, ‘While I totally support the cause and your need to promote this cause, the way this marketing company is choosing to do it is not school appropriate.’ And the fact that I felt it was objectifying a female body part, sexualizing it and that it was more about that than it was about cancer awareness for this young man."

(Keese) Chrisco also talked with the student’s mother, who wasn’t pleased with the decision to ban the bracelets. Chrisco says the decision was backed up by the district superintendent.

Debi Jutras has four boys in the school.

(Jutras) "I’m very upset. I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think the superintendent or the principal are giving the kids an opportunity to not make a big deal of it."

(Keese) The next day, the boy returned wearing the bracelet again.

(Chrisco) Only now we’ve got many boys wearing them as well. This is all boys, interestingly enough."

(Keese) Principal Ingrid Chrisco says she’s standing by her decision.

Debi Jutras is asking for a school assembly to educate the kids about the campaign, which is sponsored by a nonprofit foundation with a website called KeepaBreast-dot-org.

(Jutras) "It’s geared towards younger children. It’s to get them to open up and start talking about it. When you come right out and say, ‘I love boobies,’ it draws more attention."

(Keese) Chrisco sees it differently.

(Chrisco) "Last Friday an eighth grade student came to me in the hallway and said, ‘Mrs. Chrisco, thank you for making the decision that you did about the bracelets. When I saw them they made me feel icky. I felt really uncomfortable.’"

(Keese) Chrischo says she’s also ordered some pink bracelets with words like hope and courage. She says the school is planning a "pink out day" in November to promote breast cancer education.

Jutras says she plans to bring the issue up at a school board meeting next week.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.

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