'Sagging pants' bill passes House committee
Seems the best way to sell legislation these days is that it'll be good for the economy. That's how Rep. Hazelle Rogers (D-Lauderhill) pitched her so-called "sagging pants" bill to members of the House's K-20 education innovation subcommittee today.
"This pro-family, pro-education, pro-jobs bill provides each school district ... adopt a student dress code of conduct, a policy that explains to each student their responsibility," she said. "This would make for a better school district and more productive students."
The bill passed the subcommittee unanimously.
Rogers' bill doesn't actually use the words "sagging pants." But it requires school districts adopt a dress code that prohibits students from "wearing clothing that exposes underwear or body parts in an indecent or vulgar manner." Penalties include verbal warning and a call to parents for the first offense; ineligibility for extracurricular activities for up to five days on the second offense and in-school suspension on the third offense.
House staffers did, however, provide a brief history of sagging pants in a bill analysis: "Although no rigidly academic analysis of the history of 'sagging' has yet been conducted, it is commonly thought that 'sagging' originated in prisons where belts are not issued because they may be used to commit suicide or used as weapons. The lack of belts combined with loose, ill-fitting pants result in pants falling below the waist."
Similar legislation went nowhere last year. A Senate bill with the same language was scheduled to make its last committee stop today. The NAACP Florida State Conference released a statement today calling the Senate bill a waste of time that could have a negative impact on young black males. Rogers and the sponsor of the Senate bill, Sen. Gary Siplin (D-Orlando), are both black.
Capitol gadfly Brian Pitts said committee members would be remiss if they viewed the legislation simply as a sagging pants bill. "The bill says proper attire, it doesn’t say anything about saggy pants," he said, adding that it's necessary these days when students are trying to dress like Beyonce, Madonna and Lady Gaga.
"Set a standard that’s proper, and Lady Gaga can stand outside, Madonna can stay outside, Beyonce can stay outside. All those other people can stay outside ... Oh, by the way, (rapper) 50 Cent can stay outside too."
One committee member, Rep. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) said she'd read recently a horrible story out of Texas about the rape of a young girl.
"There was an article about an 11 year old girl who was gangraped in Texas by 18 young men because she was dressed like a 21-year-old prostitute," she said. "And her parents let her attend school like that. And I think it’s incumbent upon us to create some areas where students can be safe in school and show up in proper attire so what happened in Texas doesn’t happen to our students."
No one commented on that line of reasoning.