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FAD-CRAZY TEENAGERS ARE SUCKERS FOR PACIFIERS

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Yesterday's rebel without a cause wore a leather jacket and white T-shirt, James Dean-style. Today's sucks a pacifier.

In the tradition of bobby sox, madras shirts or "X" hats, pacifiers are becoming the latest teen craze in some places. The pacifiers are worn on a string or chain around the neck and are traded like class rings or friendship bracelets.Some educators worry the baby accessory is really a way of advertising gang ties or drug use. Others see it as a harmless - and largely pointless - craze.

"These kids need to create symbols of a belongingness to a social . . . group, and this is another one of those," said Jim Peters, principal of Greenfield Middle School. He said about 20 of the school's 590 students tote pacifiers.

Among them is sixth-grader Colin Drouin, who said the mouthpiece helped him kick a pack-a-day smoking habit.

"You have something in your mouth. It just does it," Drouin said.

Some are alarmed by the fad, which developed after the release of the movie "Boyz N the Hood." The film about Los Angeles-area gangs includes a character who sucks a pacifier.

Sage Valley Junior High School in Gillette, Wyo., banned the pacifiers last year and sent out a notice saying: "Pacifiers are associated with drugs, gangs and infants. None of these associations is appropriate for junior high school."

"It's just a distraction in class," said Principal Dan Espeland. "You're trying to get a question-and-answer session going, and you have students with pacifiers in their mouths."

Some aficionados say pacifiers help them relax. Jon Unaitis, an 11-year-old at North Parish Elementary School in Greenfield, said he just likes "how it goes `cheet, cheet," when you suck it.