Thom Schnellinger: Breast cancer awareness or something else?
May 5, 2011
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.
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.