SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Cancer has ravaged several of Ann Aberson's relatives, so she doesn't have a problem with her two teenage daughters wearing bracelets to raise awareness of breast cancer.
But their school principal does.
This week, Baltic High School, just north of here, became one of the latest across the USA to ban the rubber bracelet, which has a message some say is in poor taste: "I love boobies."
The bracelets have caused controversy in schools in states including California, Colorado, Idaho, Florida and Wisconsin. Some districts allow students to wear them inside-out, and others ban them.
"When we had an assembly the first day of school, I basically told the students we are not insensitive to the cause," Baltic High Principal Jim Aisenbrey says. "I think everybody in the gym, including myself, has had a family member or relative or friend who has dealt with the issue. I do think there are more proper ways to bring this plight to the attention of people, and I don't think this is a proper way."
"I guess I never thought of them as offensive," Aberson says. Her grandmother and five of her grandmother's sisters battled breast cancer.
The bracelets, which sell for about $4 in stores, were created by Keep A Breast Foundation, a Carlsbad, Calif., non-profit group that seeks to increase breast cancer awareness among young people.
Proceeds from sales support the foundation's programs, founder Shaney Jo Darden says. She says the bracelets are meant to spark discussions.
"That's the whole idea, it's getting people to talk about breast cancer, it's getting people to share their feelings about how this disease has impacted their life," she says. "The bracelet is doing what it's meant to do - it's making people talk."
"Schools banning it? That's crazy," says Julie Hubbell of Lewisville, Texas. Hubbell helped organize an auction and barbeque named "Boobie Q" to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
In the Fresno area, students in the Clovis Unified School District were told not to wear the bracelets in class - or to turn them inside out so the message is not visible, spokeswoman Kelly Avants says. The school district's dress code outlaws jewelry with sexually suggestive language or images, she says.
Jeff Martin, USA TODAY