Two Tennessee teens were arrested and jailed for “sagging” their pants at school. According to reports, the teens were cited by a Bolivar Central High School resource officer — who charged them with indecent exposure. As a result, the students spent 48 hours in the Hardeman County Jail.
According to the Boliver Central High School student handbook, the dress code was designed to encourage a “proper and professional standard of dress.” The dress code was further designed to “enable school personnel to easily recognize outside intruders and deter gang affiliation and activity.”
As stated in the handbook, the high school specifically prohibits students from wearing “Low slung, baggy seat, baggy legged, or bell-bottom pants.”
Disciplinary actions associated with dress code violations are also outlined in the student handbook.
On their first violation, students will be prohibited from attending class until they are able to change into approved clothing. The punishment for a second violation is a one-day suspension — which is to be served in-school. According to the handbook, “subsequent violations will result in conference with parents for further disciplinary consequence.”
School officials did not disclose how many times the Tennessee teens were warned about their sagging pants before they were jailed. However, as reported by WREG, the school resource officer “reprimanded the students several times” for violating the dress code.
It is unclear why the students were criminally charged for a violation of school policy, as the Boliver Central High School student handbook does not mention criminal charges as a possible disciplinary action.
Although the handbook does include a list of “zero tolerance” policies, including possession of drugs and weapons, dress code violations are not mentioned on that list.
Officials confirmed the Tennessee teens were jailed for sagging their pants, but it is unknown whether they were charged as adults or juveniles.
In many schools, students are prohibited from wearing their pants below the waist — per the district dress code. Although students may face suspension for violating the dress code, criminal charges associated with sagging have become a point of heated controversy.
— Your Black World (@YourBlackWorld) November 26, 2015
As reported by Ebony, “in cities across the US, wearing pants beneath one’s hip has gone beyond being perceived as distasteful, it is increasing[ly] being criminalized.”
The Tennessee teens were reportedly arrested and jailed on charges of indecent exposure — which, according to Justia, is a misdemeanor offense.
In Tennessee, indecent exposure is defined as an intentional exposure of the genitals or buttocks to another, when the person “reasonably expects that the acts will be viewed by another,” and that the acts “will offend an ordinary viewer or are for the purpose of sexual arousal and gratification of the defendant…”
The Boliver Municipal Code does not include a specific ordinance pertaining to indecent exposure. However, several cities throughout the United States have added laws or modified existing laws to prohibit people from sagging their pants.
As reported by Manhattan Makeovers, these controversial “laws have been passed or considered in eight states,” including Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, and New York.
— SuiteCulture (@SuiteCulture) November 28, 2015
Although lawmakers insist they are simply protecting citizens from unnecessary exposure to undergarments, opponents argue that the laws are racist. City College of New York assistant professor R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy, PhD, explains.
“… making it illegal sets up a dangerous [precedent] for our community. For years now, many of us have supported the movement to ‘pull up your pants’ but have not looked at how the judgment and condemnation that we visit on Black youth, be it hoodies or sagging pants, is directly linked to racist stereotypes and harmful to our community and the pursuit of justice.”
Washington University Law Professor Neil Richards said the laws are not only controversial, they may be unconstitutional.
“They are regulating in terms of indecent exposure but seem to be directed at the expression of identity through clothing.”
According to reports, the Tennessee teens jailed for sagging their pants spent last weekend in the Hardeman County Jail. Authorities and school administrators have not provided further comment on the unusual situation.
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