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New legislation fashioned to ban baggy pants from schools; Crist will not support Florida bill

By Staff | Mar 21, 2008

A new bill introduced before the Florida Legislature could affect whether students across the state are allowed to wear saggy or baggy pants. According to the bill, students would be forbidden to wear baggy pants which, according to proponents of the bill, have the students exposing their underwear.

Gov. Charlie Crist met Thursday with NAACP President Adora Obi Nweze to discuss, among many issues, the “baggy pants” bill. Both Crist and Nweze agreed that they are not supporting the legislation because it would disproportionately affect minority students.

Crist said the campaign forbidding students to wear baggy pants is the same as when schools tried to forbid students from having longer hair in the 1960s and 1970s.

According to the bill text of SB 302, it is designed “to prohibit students from wearing and exposing undergarments that expose or exhibit covered or uncovered sexual organs.”

Students who are considered violators of the bill would first be given a verbal warning, followed by a three-day suspension from school for a second offense. If the student does not comply after that, he or she could be given up to 10 days of out-of-school suspension.

Some school officials are unclear as to why the state would try to implement the law when most school districts have dress code regulations already in place in their student codes of conduct.

According to the Lee County School District’s Code of Conduct manual, given to every student when they register with the district, “Pants shall be worn fastened and at the waist.” Other parts of the dress code address blouse length, apparel condoning drugs or alcohol, the wearing of hats or sunglasses and more.

Joe Donzelli, director of communications for the district, said the dress code is nothing new for the district.

“School districts across the state have dress code policies in place,” he said. “This really isn’t a problem in Lee County.”

Donzelli explained that because the policy has been consistent within the district, principals and staff members deal immediately with any issues in dress code.

“If you allow districts the autonomy to put in place their own rule, that is a better way to go,” he said. “That’s because what works in Lee County may not work somewhere else in Florida.”

At Cape Coral High School, Principal Eric McFee said baggy pants are a fading issue.

“I think baggy pants is a big fad that is phasing out,” he said. “It’s nowhere near as much of an issue as it was one or two years ago.”

When McFee or his staff notice one of Cape High’s approximately 2,000 students wearing baggy pants, they give the student a zip tie to use as a makeshift belt for the rest of the day.

“As soon as we show the students the zip ties, their belts magically reappear,” he said.

According to McFee, students at Cape High laugh when he tells them about how their “baggy pants” could get them 10 days worth of suspension. In fact, he said, some classes have had some great discussions about the topic.

McFee explained that as he watches students leaving for dismissal, he sees only one or two students wearing baggy pants among the hundreds who are leaving the school.

“Listen, if you got 2,000 students and maybe 20 are wearing baggy pants, that is only about 1 percent,” he said.

As much as principals and district officials across the state have been discussing the “baggy pants” bill, some students are not as informed on the legislation that may change the way they can dress.

According to Aaron Smoly, a journalism teacher at Cape Coral High School, the school media has not had any coverage of the bill, although it probably will in the near future.

Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, could not be reached on Thursday to explain his intent for creating the bill.