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Janesville school officials up in arms about T-shirts, bracelets

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Jason Smathers
June 10, 2010
— Martha Wright and her seventh-grade friends at Franklin Middle School said they wanted to raise awareness of the dangers of breast cancer for teenagers.

Unfortunately, their method—wearing T-shirts and bracelets that read “I love boobies”—didn’t register well with the school’s principal, who banned the attire from Franklin.


The shirts, made by California-based nonprofit Keep-A-Breast Foundation, are designed to encourage young people to “target their breast health” and provoke positive discussion, according to Sarah Hardwick, spokeswoman for the foundation.


When Wright wore one of the shirts and three of her bracelets to class, the teacher reported the incident to Franklin Principal Ken Ehrhardt. Ehrhardt asked the student to turn the shirt inside out or change into other clothing.


Some of Wright’s other classmates, such as Diamonique Fowler, wore the bracelets regularly in school and think the school addressed the wrong issue.


“There’s not a problem with kids sagging their pants, but there’s a problem with kids wearing bracelets that say ‘boobies.’ I don’t get it,” Fowler said.


Ehrhardt said the school supports the underlying message. It has a history with breast cancer campaigns and even raised money to purchase benches in memory of three staff members who died from the disease. But Ehrhardt said the shirts are inappropriate for a student body where “hormones are raging.”


“We have a policy that if a T-shirt can be distracting or embarrassing, we ask them to turn it inside out or put on a different shirt,” Ehrhardt said. “If a boy came in to the school with that shirt, that might be considered offensive.”


Some boys wore the bracelets. Wright’s friend Taylor Schulz said boys like him have shown they can wear the bracelets without being immature.


Wright’s mother, Michelle Reese, said she thought the term “boobies” is age appropriate and that given the early age that girls hit puberty, it makes sense to raise the issue in middle school.


Reese talked to Ehrhardt about the issue after Wright was reprimanded. Reese asked why the school hadn’t discussed the issue in an assembly or in some other manner. Ehrhardt said he asked for more information about the charity from Reese but didn’t receive a response.


With the school year done, Reese doesn’t plan to address the issue further until a new principal replaces Ehrhardt, who is leaving Franklin after this year to serve as the new director of curriculum and instruction for the Janesville School District.



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