BY ALYSSA FISHER
Cooper City High School’s Key Club spent the 2010-2011 school year dedicated to making texting and driving illegal in Florida with an organization called X the Txt. After hearing a 2010 state traffic-crash data report that careless driving was the cause of most fatal crashes in Broward County, the students petitioned the cause, sending over 5,000 signatures to the state legislature in Tallahassee. Nevertheless, for the ninth time in 2011, the distracted driving bill was rejected, marking 17 dead bills since 2010. Key Club is committed to helping the community, but the issue of wearing droopy pants on school grounds has never been on their service agenda. That’s probably because, unlike texting and driving, there are no statistics proving it’s dangerous. Yet, Governor Rick Scott approved SB 228, a bill that would ban students from wearing clothes that expose underwear or “body parts” on campus during school hours, in June. If the government put the same amount of effort into banning texting and driving as they do passing a law to don a belt, thousands of lives could be saved.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that eleven teens die daily due to texting and driving, which, according to Allstate, is the largest killer of teenagers in the country. Even with these horrifying statistics, Florida is one of a few states that do not have distracted driving laws.
This apparently didn’t concern Fla. Sen. Gary Siplin much, who, after years of trying to get kids to pull up their pants, introduced a bill in 2005 that criminalizes droopy pants, making it a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a $50 fine and 10 days in jail. The Florida legislation may be against passing the bill to save lives, but the baggy pants law was readily welcomed. SB 228 passed in the Senate in March, and a similar bill, HB 61, is making its way through the Florida House. From the first day of school, it was made clear in the Student Code of Conduct that pants must be secured at the waist or else students will face consequences that include internal suspension and loss of extracurricular activities.
Sagging trousers are not attractive. The look is indecent and shows a lack of effort. But some critics of the look take their opinions too far, suggesting they are a symbol of delinquency and disrespect for authority. This most likely stems from their beginnings in prison, where sagging, oversized uniforms were worn without belts to prevent use of weapons. From there, the baggy pants look trickled into the hip-hop scene, where it became a worldwide fashion statement as prevalent as girls’ low rise jeans and stomach exposing crop tops. The truth of the matter is that the baggy pants issue is not only a matter of indecency, but also a matter of race. In the 1930’s, the zoot suit, consisting of an exaggerated boxy long coat and tight-cuffed pants, was as strongly disapproved of as saggy trousers, if not more. According to the New York Times, the suit was said to be representative of a subculture of young urban minorities and was viewed as unpatriotic because it defied a fabric conservation order during World War II. The clothing was at the center of the Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles, racially motivated beatings of Hispanic youths by sailors. The youths were stripped of their garments, which were burned in the street. With the zoot suit ordeal in mind, the sagging prohibitions appear to be racially motivated because the wearers are young, predominantly African-American men.
There has yet to be a news story covering a death caused by baggy pants. The severity of the deaths caused by texting and driving cannot be compared to the way in which trousers are worn. They are two different spectrums, and the fact that after over 17 bills texting and driving is still legal in Florida while teenagers are being arrested and fined for wearing their pants low is unjustifiable. The Florida legislature needs to get their priorities in order: baggy pants, or death.