Thom Schnellinger: Breast cancer awareness or something else?


As I read with interest, the student article by Ms. Madigan entitled “Breast Cancer Awareness in Schools Banned”, I could not help but wonder if the writer was representing the issue of protest or of cancer awareness. At no time is the topic of breast cancer awareness banned in Moffat County High School. We address cancer awareness in many forums, health classes and on appropriate wristbands. In the past, the school has been an ardent supporter of Relay for Life. Many staff members and this principal have been involved with RACE for the CURE. However, I feel the current “I LOVE BOOBIES” is a misguided attempt by KEEP A BREAST FOUNDATION to involve students to buy something that is controversial. Granted this is a legitimate 501C3 foundation. Granted it's funding is going to breast cancer education. But it offends many breast cancer survivors and current fighters.

You heard it, people with the disease are offended. I know, I've asked. Could we possibly support some form of expression that is polite, encouraging, respectful in the name of all the people that are fighting so hard with this terrible disease? Oh, but that wouldn’t sell and it wouldn’t be cool. Shouldn't we as the adults let our kids know that the right thing to do is to support these important causes without concern for being hip, cool or trendy. That would be courageous and character building.

Am I as a principal to turn a blind eye to the next wristband that supports colon cancer or rectal cancer with its own unique crass colloquialisms? Of course not. There is a right way to educate, support and a way to hurt feelings and appear impolite..

Recently, thinking that I would reframe the issue and reward the students with an appropriate wristband, I purchased fifty from the American Cancer Society thinking that I could replace the “I LOVE BOOBIES” wristbands. However, what assistant principal Jensen and I found was that the students didn’t want that ACS band. It was about how the KAB band expressed the issue for the student. It was about students circumventing the school dress code, not supporting breast cancer awareness. As one cancer survivor put it, "It's about getting away with something." You can’t wear this on a t-shirt in school, so how can it be allowed on this band (MCHS Dress Code)?

The students always have our support in stepping out for great causes. Ask the student government how many times the high school administration has said "yes" to their requests. Whether we support Breast Cancer Awareness, Muscular Dystrophy, Relay for Life, Bonfils Blood Drive, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation or the many others throughout the year; it should be done with grace, hope, charity, respect and love. Not just responding to the latest, coolest and greatest fashion trend on Facebook.

So, in the end, can we as mature adults guide children in making encouraging, respectful statements regarding the terrible cancer struggles of people without making it about something else. Can our students see through the "hip" factor and just do the right thing? I hope so.

I welcome common sense, encouraging, not hurtful solutions and maybe one day we'll have a cure for this disease.

Sincerely yours,

Thom. Schnellinger, Principal

Moffat County High School

PS: In talking to community members and parents that are ardent supports of the KEEP A BREAST Foundation. The suggestion was that students could turn the wrist band inside out to be incompliance with the school dress code.. On that inside it says KEEP A BREAST. This is a solution and a good one if students honor it.


bridy 5 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Schnellinger and I have had more than one conversation about this issue. I disagree with him on it. I sent the following letter to Mr. Schnellinger, the editor of the High School news paper The Blue Print, and to Craig Daily Press (I noticed that CDP didn't print my letter to the editor). I commend the bravery of the girl who wrote the original article, and wish we had more people willing to stand up for what they believe in. Mr. Schnellinger and I discussed the option of turning the bracelets inside out and it is a compromise I wish we didn't have to make. Other schools openly support KAB I wish ours would too.

To Whom it May Concern,

I am writing this e-mail to express my concern, disappointment, and how truly offended I am by the Moffat County High School's stance on Breast Cancer Awareness, specifically on the Keep a Breast Foundation.  I just finished reading the High School news paper the "Moffat County High School Blue Print".  In it there is an article written by a brave young lady who should be rewarded for her efforts to right a horrible wrong going on in our school. The article that I am referring to is headlined, "Breast Cancer Awareness in Schools Banned".

~continued in next post~


bridy 5 years, 11 months ago


I am a breast cancer survivor.  I have two aunts who are currently fighting breast cancer.  Our school district has lost staff to this disease, and has staff currently fighting breast cancer.
I am a huge supporter of the efforts that the Keep a Breast Foundation is doing to bring awareness to teens.  They have instituted programs within high schools across the country to support awareness in teens (High School Art Jam and Clubs The majority of their programs target young people; Keep A Breast This is My Story Campaign and Keep A Breast I Love Boobies Campaign are just two of them.  From their web site, “I Love Boobies Campaign is a unique national campaign that develops a new approach and positive style of communication about breast cancer. The campaign is meant to encourage young people to target their breast health. The T-shirts and bracelets act as an awareness-raising tool, allowing young people to engage and start talking about a subject that is scary and taboo and making it positive and upbeat.” 
The article in the school newspaper states, "In early January, MCHS faculty received an email from school principle Thom Schnellinger, stating that students are not to wear the bracelets anymore and are to be sent to the office if they refuse to take the bracelet off."  As a breast cancer survivor, and as a parent of three Moffat County School District students, two of them High School students, I am appalled!  I have no intention of banning my children from wearing the clothing and accessories, including the bracelets.  I am willing to defend their right to support me, our family, our friends, and a worthy cause. 
This decision needs to be immediately reversed.  Our right to support charitable causes, and to support people who desperately need a support system can not be taken away from us or our children.  The many other schools who support this cause, and the programs that they have in place specifically for high school students shows that this is not an obscene or offensive foundation.  I support freedom of speech and freedom of expression, I expect our schools to do the same.  As the article points out, "In the 1970's, the Supreme Court sided with students in the Tinker v. Des Moines case.  Students protested the Vietnam War by wearing black armbands to school.  The Supreme Court decided this was a form of freedom of expression, allowing students to wear the armbands.  The same standard should apply today for students wearing the "I love boobies" bracelets.  Everyone who wears a Boobies bracelet is supporting a cause without being disruptive and it doesn't infringe upon the rights of others."

lonelyone 5 years, 11 months ago

Mr Schnellinger, I no longer have children in Moffat County Schools so my opinion doesn't really matter nor does yours to me. But I do have friends and relatives who have suffered through breast cancer and I am very thankful that so far they have all survived. Personally I see nothing wrong with the bracelets. I can't help but think that the kids didn't want your bracelets because they were "your" bracelets, not theirs. It was just another case of an adult telling them what to think and how to feel and how to respond to something. Maybe had you gotten your bracelets first and then asked them to switch without demanding they be taken off, the students would have been more open to doing so. I've talked to a few students who have worn the bracelets and they see nothing wrong with them and wear them in respect of their family members, it is you the adults that have made them into something disrespectful and nasty. I also find it interesting that when I clicked on your letter to the editor, one of the first things I see is a picture that seems to have something to do with the Blueprint in which it looks like to male students holding hands. Does that mean your supporting Gay rights? I doubt that is what the picture is promoting at all but I'm just making a point that sometimes what we first see is not what is really being promoted. Give these kids some credit. Part of your job at the school is to teach them to be responsible adults and make the right decissions for themselves, but it appears that we are only willing to let them do so when they make decissions that we adults approve of.


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