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Student told to cover up cancer awareness shirt at Belleville elementary school

Mom talks about school’s ban of cancer awareness shirt

Blake Coil’s mother, Christie Niederbrach Coil, said she doesn't understand why the school made her son cover up a breast cancer awareness shirt.
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Blake Coil’s mother, Christie Niederbrach Coil, said she doesn't understand why the school made her son cover up a breast cancer awareness shirt.

An elementary school student in Belleville was told to cover his cancer awareness shirt, which his mom said he was wearing to honor his grandma’s fight with breast cancer.

Twelve-year-old Blake Coil’s sweatshirt with the phrase “Hakuna Matata” on it, according to a Fox2Now report. The phrase is written so that “tata” is bigger and in a different color than the rest of the letters.

Roosevelt Elementary staff told him to cover it up because it was inappropriate. Roosevelt Principal Craig Hayes told Fox2Now the word “tata” on Blake’s shirt is slang for breast.

Blake’s mother, Christie Coil, said he wore it the day before Halloween and does not understand why school authorities find it inappropriate.

blake coil.jpeg
Twelve-year-old Blake Coil was told to cover this cancer awareness shirt at a Belleville, Illinois, school, which his mom said he was wearing to honor his grandma’s fight with breast cancer. Christie Coil

“There’s nothing offensive on the shirt, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to wear,” she said Friday morning.

She doesn’t see the word “tatas” as slang.

“I really don’t think it’s a slang word, it’s just another word ... for breast,” she said, adding she could come up with slang terms that would be inappropriate.

Coil said Hayes talked to her and told her that he spoke with other school officials. He told the mom they support Blake and breast cancer awareness, but they don’t support his sweatshirt.

She has since received a lot of input from other parents and community members via social media.

“I haven’t run into one person that has found it offensive. That’s why we picked it, it’s from the Lion King,” she said.

The phrase is originally from the Disney movie “The Lion King” and means “no worries.”

Coil said she is working to get Blake an actual Lion King shirt to wear to school.

“So that way he’s not out of the loop completely,” she said.

Hayes released this statement to the BND on Friday afternoon:

“The Belleville Public Schools, District #118, takes great pride in its longstanding efforts to support and promote health and wellness initiatives, including supporting Cancer Awareness and the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser, to name a few. Our students and our community have shown us, time and time again, that they are passionate and committed to these and other worthwhile causes, and we commend then for their efforts.

In accordance with state and federal student privacy laws, District #118 does not discuss individual student matters. However, the District can state its policies promote conduct and attire that minimize disruptions and support a positive educational environment.

Parents can always contact their student’s building principal directly to discuss any questions or concerns they may have about our policies and procedures.”

Coil said her family is hosting a fundraising spaghetti dinner for her mother, Sheri Niederbrach, 4 p.m. on Saturday at the American Legion in O’Fallon, 109 North Penn St.

CDC experts answer some frequently asked questions young women have about breast cancer and breast health. There are several signs and symptoms of breast cancer – including some you may not know about.

Belleville News-Democrat news editor Dana Rieck was selected as Editor and Publisher’s “25 Under 35 Newspaper Leaders” for 2018 and works with the Online News Association in St. Louis. She attended Colorado State University and grew up in Loveland, Colorado.


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