TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- State Senator Gary Siplin has been working on a bill aimed at a school's dress code policy for six years and he's close to making it law.
SB 228 and House version, HB 61, makes it against the law when teens wear their pants so low you can see their underwear. The proposed rule under the school code of conduct applies to boys and girls. The Senate version passed without any dissenting votes.
The saggy pants fashion among teens is bad enough to inspire this song on American Idol a couple of seasons ago. The opening lyrics say, "Pants on the ground. Pants on the ground, looking like a fool with your pants on the ground."
Florida lawmakers agree with "General" Larry Platt's song and are fast approving a bill banning clothing that shows underwear in public schools.
Mike Davis, a senior at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, says he supports the bill. "You should dress appropriately for school. It's a business. It's the place training you to become the person you will be in life."
It's a dress code rule enforced at Gibbs. Just ask ninth grader Maurice Hall. Administrators stopped him for wearing his pants so low his underwear was visible. "This morning I broke my belt, that's why my pants are sagging. But usually I'm wearing a belt, so they never sag," says Maurice.
School administrators have a simple solution: they zip tie the pants or shorts. They use a plastic tie, slip it through a couple of belt loops on the pants or shorts and cinch it at the waist. The tie has to be cut off.
A message posted on campus reads: "Heads up, Pants up, Grades up."
Principal Kevin Gordon says school administrators are sending a clear message on what's appropriate for school and the workforce.
"If you are not dressed appropriately, then you're not ready for school. If you are not ready for school, you're not ready to be successful," says Gordon. He adds, "Those are patterns students get into. We try to create patterns that are going to be patterns of success."
But with 1,600 students, some kids fall through the cracks. There are some students who wear extra long shirts to hide their underwear while the inseam hangs close to their knees.
The rules apply to girls too. Gordon says they cannot wear anything too short, too tight and girls have to keep underwear out of sight. "They either are told to cover it, go to the office and get something from home to change into or sit in our intervention center for the day," explains Gordon.
"The whole culture where that came from was from the prisons. I don't think that breeds success. I don't know anyone in prison that's successful or getting good grades," says Gordon.
The bill is detailed. It comes with specific consequences for students, from a verbal warning to a three day in-school suspension and a 30 day suspension from extracurricular activities like football or theatre.
Mike says if teens think the baggy pants showing their underwear fashion looks good, think again. He says, "People think it's a sense of fashion. It's not the fashion you need in life."
The dress code for Tampa Bay area school districts already bans clothing that shows underwear on campus. Gordon says while the bill is a good idea, the punishment should be left up to local school districts, not state leaders.
"I think they should leave it to school districts what the appropriate discipline would be," says Gordon. "I think the bill in spirit is appropriate. We want to teach students how to dress properly."
Duval County's dress code regarding pants reads as follows:
The waistband of shorts, slacks, skirts, and similar garments shall not be worn below the hips. Underwear, midriff and backs should not be exposed. Belts, suspenders, and straps should be worn in place and fastened.
There are responses in place for repeat offenses as well:
- 1st Offense - Phone call to parents
- 2nd Offense - In-school suspension/detention and phone call to parents
- 3rd Offense - Parent/child dress code contract
- 4th Offense - Dress code contract violations may be defined as a Class 2.23 offense and may warrant disciplinary action as outlined under Class II offenses
WTSP and First Coast News