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Breast cancer slogan creates discipline problem

Students being suspended for wearing bracelet

Chelsea Bannach The Spokesman-Review

A Riverside High School student sat outside the administration office Friday waiting for her turn to talk to the principal about a slogan that caused a stir at the school all week.

As she waited, she wrote “I Love Boobies!” on her arm, adding it to those already written in multiple colors. Meanwhile, a fellow student sat in the principal’s office being reprimanded for sporting that same slogan.

The controversy began when 16-year-old Riverside High School sophomore Dakota Jewell and his friend, Zack Jordan, were suspended for a day Thursday for refusing several times to remove a rubber bracelet that read “I Boobies!”

The bracelet is made by the Keep a Breast Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “eradicate breast cancer by exposing young people to methods of prevention, early detection and support.” Proceeds from selling the bracelet go to the foundation.

This past week, the high school sponsored several activities for breast cancer awareness. The culminating event was going to be a relay race fundraiser on Friday, but it was canceled due to lack of student involvement.

After other students caught wind of Jewell’s and Jordan’s suspensions, some began wearing the bracelets themselves, as well as making signs and shirts and writing the banned slogan on their cars and on themselves. Several more students were suspended Friday, Jewell said.

“The student body is upset with our principal and how he went about doing what he did,” he said.

Jewell, who has had several family members die of cancer, says he is simply trying to support breast cancer awareness.

“There is a history of cancer in my family, so I have a strong reason to do this,” he said.

But Principal John McCoy, who said privacy rules prohibit him from discussing specific disciplinary actions, says the bracelets are not appropriate for school. He has received several complaints from parents, students and staff about the bracelets, he said.

“It’s inappropriate vernacular that’s a derogatory term for female body parts,” he said.

McCoy said the students are not being suspended for wearing the bracelets, but for not doing what they are told.

“If a student is asked to do something and refuses, they are suspended for defiance,” he said.

When Jewell returned to school Friday, he was wearing the bracelet and was suspended a second time. This time, he will be suspended indefinitely, until he is ready to remove the bracelet.

The school’s dress code served as a basic foundation for the disciplinary action, but keeping things “G-rated,” in general, is the main goal, McCoy said.

“We’re not perfect, but we try really hard to not offend anyone,” he said.

The administration supports students’ efforts to spread cancer awareness, but they must do so in a manner appropriate for a school environment, he said.

“The kids have done a wonderful job – our students and our community – to bring breast cancer awareness to the forefront,” he said. “This is just a bump along the way.”

Jewell said he plans to return to school Monday wearing the banned bracelet. Jordan, who had been wearing the bracelet since his freshman year, removed the bracelet at his parents’ request, but said he also plans to wear it to school Monday.

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