An Arizona high school cheerleading squad's efforts to raise money for breast cancer research has been a bumpy ride.
When Gilbert High School cheerleaders revealed the pink T-shirts they were planning to wear at the next two football games as they cheer and raise money from spectators, the administration issued a ban on the shirts for their "objectionable slogan," The Arizona Republic reports.
The shirts say "Gilbert Cheer" on the front and "Feel For Lumps, Save Your Bumps" on the back, featuring the recognizable pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the cheerleaders were hoping to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Gilbert High School Principal J. Charles Santa Cruz said in a statement that he personally supports Fight for the Cure, and the administration backs the cheerleading squad's efforts. He adds that the students may wear generic pink shirts or other apparel without slogans, "they may not, however, wear the unauthorized T-shirt with the questionable slogan. The 'Fight for the Cure' is a serious matter and is much bigger than the slogan," KNXV-TV reports.
But varsity cheerleader Natalie Skowronek, a 17-year-old junior, says she doesn't think the slogan is inappropriate and her team should have the right to support their cause their way.
"We're not saying anything a doctor wouldn't say," Skowronek told The Arizona Republic.
The disagreement at Gilbert High is just one of many conflicts between school administrators and students over proper ways to display support for breast cancer awareness and research.
Earlier this year, two Philadelphia girls were suspended for defying a school ban on "I (heart) boobies!" bracelets by advocacy group Keep A Breast. The students took the case to court and a federal judge ruled in their favor, noting that the bracelets were neither lewd nor vulgar and can't be banned by public school officials that deemed them offensive.
The bracelets were also deemed inappropriate in many schools across the country -- so much so that Keep A Breast has a special section on their website that offers students resources to convince their schools otherwise.
While many students just like Gilbert's cheerleaders are fighting to bring awareness to the cause, some breast cancer advocates and survivors are questioning whether having a dedicated month and so many corporate sponsorships have watered down the actual message.
"The pink drives me nuts," 18-year-old breast cancer survivor Cynthia Ryan told the Associated Press. "It's the cheeriness I can't stand."
Part of the frustration and concern over breast cancer awareness campaigns is what has been dubbed "pinkwashing," in which the pink ribbon and color pink are used by companies who have declared a commitment to help search for a cure, even though the company may use chemicals linked to cancer.
Back at Gilbert, the cheerleaders are still upset over their limitations to express themselves, arguing that other clubs have displayed much more sexual slogans -- like the sign language club's "I'm good with my hands" shirts and the choir's "I'd hit that" shirts, according to The Arizona Republic.
The cheerleading team threatened to fight the decision and boycott the games by not cheering, instead wearing their shirts at the gate and collecting donations. But facing administrative threats of possibly being kicked off the team, the cheerleaders are now looking to simply collect donations at the games and may sell their banned shirts and donate those proceeds, according to KNXV-TV.
School dress codes and limitations to what students call self expression through apparel is a regular debate. Last month, a California school banned cheerleaders from wearing their uniforms to class, saying that the students must cover up with sweats because the uniform's skirts are too short. A Pennsylvania school district in August attempted to ban skinny jeans, but backed off the decision after stark protesting from parents.
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