Senate approves baggy pants ban

Published: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 9:46 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 9:46 a.m.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Youth who let their drawers droop to expose underwear, G-strings or worse at school would get a verbal warning after a first offense but face suspension if they keep doing it under a measure that cleared a Senate committee Wednesday.

The Prekindergarten-12th Grade Education Committee unanimously approved Sen. Gary Siplin's "pull up your britches" bill (SB 302). It next will go to the Senate floor after the Legislature convenes its regular annual session in March.

"We want to make sure the focus is on the blackboard and not the backboard," said Siplin, D-Orlando. "You can't apply for a job with your pants sagging. You can't go to college with your pants sagging and do well."

Siplin has tried for several years to get such legislation passed without success. Last year, he dropped a provision that would have jailed repeat offenders.

This year's version calls for a warning and phone call to parents the first time a student exposes his or her sexual organs, even if covered by underwear, in a vulgar or indecent manner.

A second offense would result in a three-day suspension and additional violations would draw 10 days.

An identical House bill (HB 335) has not yet had a committee hearing. Gov. Charlie Crist was noncommittal on the measures.

"Style is not my issue," Crist said. "I have heard of it. The good news for me is that I really don't have to opine on them until they get to my desk."

Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, questioned the bill's lack of any definitions for what is vulgar and indecent.

Siplin replied by reciting the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's famous comment that it's hard to define pornography but "I know it when I see it."

A Senate staff report noted the bill might be open to a First Amendment challenge if construed as limiting students' freedom of expression. Courts, though, also have upheld the authority of school officials to control student conduct.

Some say the saggy pants fad began in jails where inmates are not allowed to have belts for safety reasons.

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