Thomas Delany Jr. | Sun-Times Media files
Updated: July 6, 2012 9:30AM
An effort under way at City Hall aimed at getting young men to pull up their pants might seem ridiculous considering the challenges the city is facing.
But here’s the thing: For the most part, the neighborhoods where too many young males are being killed are the same neighborhoods where young men are walking around with their boxers showing.
It is as though the tolerance for this unacceptable behavior signaled that the entire community was up for grabs.
So I give Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) credit for forging ahead Wednesday with a resolution she introduced about three weeks ago. The resolution opens the door to discussions about how best to end the practice of “sagging” or wearing of pants so low, young men might as well be walking around in their underwear.
“I find that principals and teachers are having to say pull up your pants and reprimand students, which takes away time,” Mitts said. “I don’t want this to be an issue that nothing is being said about.”
To put it bluntly, “sagging” is a nasty look.
Although there were questions about whether or not an ordinance banning “sagging” would even be enforceable, the other aldermen agreed with Mitts.
What was surprising, however, was testimony by James Deanes, a former school activist who currently serves as senior policy adviser for the Office of Local School Council Relations.
Deanes told the aldermen that even when students show up dressed inappropriately, schools cannot turn them away.
“The law doesn’t allow us to take away from instructional academic opportunities,” he said. “It does allow us to take away some of the social amenities, but you can’t be punitive as it relates to suspensions or dismissals or putting them out and making them go home.”
Deanes told the aldermen that students who violate school dress code can be “isolated” but still get their classroom instruction.
At some schools, principals have belts at the ready.
“If they are sagging beyond a certain point, they will say pick your belts. Or they will have large T-shirts that they will make a student wear. Or the principal will call and offer parents the opportunity to bring appropriate support mechanisms for their students,” Deanes said.
Later, a spokesman for Chicago Public Schools sent me additional information on the policy.
“This issue is relatively new in the sense that it was not around when the code was created,” said Marielle Sainvilus. “However, the Student Code of Conduct and the Board Policy allows schools to craft their own dress code or uniform policy,” she said.
“If a student arrived to school in violation of the dress code, the student could lose his/her participation in extracurricular activities as a consequence.”
If the City Council hopes to have an impact on this issue, the school policy has to be revisited.
When school officials crafted the dress code policy, the primary concern was students showing up wearing gang colors. Additionally, school officials must have recognized that some kids are pretty much left to raise themselves.
Obviously, locking a child out of the classroom because he or she isn’t wearing the mandated school uniform would be wrong because there are children who are not only getting themselves ready for school, but they are getting their siblings ready as well.
But there should be serious consequences when older kids show up repeatedly with their underwear exposed.
“Education should be our number one priority,” Mitts told her colleagues.
“Sagging” isn’t a fashion trend. It is disrespectful behavior that mocks values the rest of us learned in kindergarten.
In fact, I would argue that youth who are showing up at schools in their boxers aren’t coming to learn. Forcing them to change their ways today might save their lives tomorrow.