Underwear at school could soon have to go undercover in Tennessee.
The House and Senate in the Tennessee General Assembly are set to have full floor votes on legislation that would require school districts to impose punishments on students who wear clothing on school grounds “that exposes underwear or body parts in an indecent manner that disrupts the learning environment.”
Identical bills filed by Democrat Ophelia Ford, in the Senate, and Democrat Joe Towns, in the House, state that prohibiting such fashion statements from students during the regular school day “will advance the education of students and make disruptive incidents of violence less likely to occur.”
Towns proposed similar legislation in 2009, but that bill imposed penalties on students including a maximum $250 fine, The Tennessean reported. His bill this year, however, allows districts to set penalties.
The number of states giving serious legislative consideration to “saggy pants” legislation appears to be rising, according to various news reports. As Alabama Live reported, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a similar bill this year that is being considered in the Senate, although it would be a local law specific to the city of Montgomery and would apply to all public places from sidewalks to buses. Unlike Tennessee’s legislation, which doesn’t require a ruler to enforce, the Alabama law specifically requires pants not to fall three inches or more below a person’s hips.
Florida approved a ban on saggy pants in schools in 2011, as did Arkansas. Critics of such laws say the government should butt out of teen dress preferences, and worry that the law encourages racial profiling.
This year, New York Democratic Senator Eric Adams is also pushing for New York City public schools to requiring students to kick the habit of saggy pants. However, Adams’ New York Senate website on his sponsored legislation doesn’t appear to list anything on the topic.
Adams became a fashion icon in March, at least in the political sense. He was one of six New York state legislators to wear hoodies recently to protest the death of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager shot and killed in a controversial incident.
Formal student attire is also under such scrutiny. The Wall Street Journal reported March 29 that schools officials in various states are giving the not-so-glad eye to prom dresses that reveal too much flesh. They are instituting prom dress codes that guard against a multitude of high-fashion hyphenated styles, such as low-slung backs, thigh-high slits, and midriff-bearing cutouts.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.