Towns across the country have been launching controversial bans on saggy pants for years, but one high school has taken the anti-sag sentiment to a new level — going so far as to jail two teens for the offense.
“I think it’s just a little harsh. They didn’t need to go to that extreme,” Cheyenne Lindsey, a student at Bolivar Central High School in Bolivar, Tenn., told CBS affiliate Cleveland 19 about her school’s decision to have four students charged with indecent exposure for wearing saggy pants. Two of the four, the station reports, had to serve jail time.
“I just took it and went on. I didn’t know what else to do,” one of the students, Antonio Ammons (photo above), said of having to serve 48 hours at the Hardeman County Criminal Justice Complex. “I really didn’t like it.”
Ammons, who lives with his great-grandmother and must now figure out how to pay more than $250 in court costs and fines, was reportedly one of four students charged with indecent exposure by school resource officer Charles Woods for wearing their pants too low and exposing their underwear.
Community members who spoke with the news station believed jail time was excessive, although they weren’t thrilled with the fashion statement. “I think jail time might be a little too much, but at the same time there has been a lot of sagging pants,” parent Crystal Wing said. High school senior Jordan Perry said, “I don’t think it’s necessary to go to jail for saggy pants, but I think the school should have some kind of punishment, though.”
While the Hardeman County Schools Student Handbook states that “Low slung, baggy seat, baggy legged, or bell-bottom pants are not permitted,” such a style is not actually illegal there.
Still, bans on saggy pants have been either discussed or enacted in recent years in municipalities including Gary, Ind.; Dadeville, Ala.; Terrebonne and Iberville parishes in Louisiana; Opa-Locka, Fla., Wildwood, N.J. and Hinds County, Miss., where a student at Hinds Community College said he was arrested for his style, prompting a campus protest in September.
But the ACLU has repeatedly protested such restrictions, noting that “clothing is a form of expression protected under the Constitution of the United States. To ban a particular clothing style would violate a liberty interest guaranteed under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
The organization has also noted that targeting offenders of such bans could amount to racial profiling. “‘Saggy pants’ is a clothing style typically associated with young African-American males,” its press releases have repeatedly pointed out. “If enforced against those who choose this style and not enforced against everyone whose pants may inadvertently sag or whose legs might show below their shorts or skirts, it will almost certainly be enforced disproportionately against a particular group of people who will be singled out by law enforcement for nothing other than their attire.”
(Top photo: WMC Action News 5)