Tennessee's lawmakers have been on a roll with vital pieces of legislation, necessary to the well-being of their residents. There's the bill to protect teachers who tell students that scientific ideas like evolution and climate change aren't necessarily true. There's the bill to ensure public buildings can display the Ten Commandments (and other "historically significant documents") if they choose. But now, they've really hit the meat of important issues with a bill to outlaw saggy pants.
The bill, which now awaits the governor's signature, creates a statewide dress code for public-school students, making it illegal to dress in an "indecent manner." In addition to sagging pants, sports bras may also be under threat, as the legislation forbids showing "underwear or body parts" if it "disrupts the learning environment." (As I remember high school, body parts seemed to distract and disrupt even when covered.)
But despite the measures passing with overwhelming support (unanimously in the Senate), some lawmakers are disappointed. You see, in addition to making the styles illegal, they want harsher punishments for those teenagers who dare to push the boundaries. Three years ago, a different a version of the bill included a $250 fine and 160 hours of community service.
But Democratic Rep. Joe Towns of Memphis, the sponsor of the current proposal and the one three years ago, said he may try to put more teeth in the bill if it becomes law.
“We can look at it and see where the possibilities are to go to another level,” he said after the vote. “I would love to, because it’s out of control. There’s a lot of interest in the community about it.”
Rep. Antonio Parkinson said on the House floor that he too wants to see tougher legislation.
“I hate the fact it got watered down,” said the Memphis Democrat. “None of us have to stand there and look at anyone’s undergarments.”
Tennessee will join Arkansas and Florida, the only two states that currently have laws against sagging pants in schools. Traditionally, school districts determine and enforce dress codes and it's hard to see how this is a major issue of the day, worthy of state-level attention.
But at least this guy will be happy about the news: