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Pants No Longer On The Ground

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Legislative Session Coverage

TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) — For five years, Sen. Gary Siplin has fought to pass a bill that requires school districts to develop school dress codes that prohibit saggy pants.

It looks like 2011 is his lucky year. After no debate, the House on Wednesday passed a bill (SB 228) in a 101-15 vote requiring school boards to adopt dress code policies that prohibit clothes that “expose underwear or body parts in an indecent or vulgar manner.” It now is poised for final approval by the governor.

The bill penalizes students caught offending the dress code with a call to their parent, with the most stringent punishment being removal from extracurricular activities and in-school suspension.

“It’s been a long road,” Siplin said Wednesday, as it appeared likely his bill would finally pass the Legislature. Siplin, D-Orlando, said he’s passionate about the issue because he feels too many young people are being bypassed for jobs because they dress inappropriately.

“I firmly believe part of the education process is teaching them how to dress,” Siplin said. “If you look at successful people and how they dress, they are not showing their body parts.”

Siplin said it took so long to get the bill passed because people thought “it wasn’t a serious issue.”

Also known as the “droopy drawers” bill, it became known as Siplin’s pet project over the years and incited a fair share of media attention and ribbing from fellow lawmakers. But Siplin said it was one of the top issues people would approach him about back in his district, urging him not to drop his push for outlawing baggy pants.

Wayne Blanton, the executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, said school boards are neutral about the dress code mandates.

“Most already have a policy like that or something similar,” Blanton said. “It is redundant for the most part.”

Some of the “no” votes came from many of the House’s black caucus members, who in earlier committee stops had expressed concern that the bill might cause possible harassment of minorities.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)

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