Saggy Pants Ban In NYC Schools? Taking Matters a Step Too Far

By NICK CHILES

The New York City Schools Chancellor is considering whether he will accede to a state senator’s wish to ban saggy pants in the nation’s largest school system. It would add the New York City schools to a growing list of municipalities that have decided to turn the infuriating fashion statement of too many young black males into a crime or a violation. While I can certainly understand the sentiment, I can’t help but to feel that veering into this territory—at a time when a third of black men in this country are ensnared in the criminal justice system—is taking things a step too far.

After all, what we’re talking about is something as simple as asking boys to pull up their pants. Leaning on the legal system or the police to do it just feels so weak, so…powerless. As the father of a black male teenager, I can’t expect the courts to do something that’s supposed to be my job.

According to a column he wrote in the New York Post, New York State Senator Eric Adams of Brooklyn has been lobbying New York Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott to institute a ban on saggy pants for the one million students in the city school system. The column says Walcott told Adams that he would look into the legalities to see if a ban could be imposed. Adams, a former New York City police officer, called his Brooklyn district “ground zero” for saggy pants.

Florida and Arkansas both have statewide bans against saggy pants for students, while two towns in Louisiana passed laws to put saggy pants offenders in jail and force them to pay fines of up to $500.

I must confess that the sight of a man or boy wearing pants so far down his ass that the entirety of his drawers is visible gives me such a strong, viscerally disgusted reaction that when I see it I have to stop myself from slamming on the brakes, stepping out of my car and plucking the idiot upside his head so many times that he won’t remember his name. When my son went through the saggy pants stage, we fought about it on an almost daily basis—and his pants weren’t even sagging very far. But he was not going to cross the threshold of my household—either coming or going—with his underwear visible. Under no circumstances was that acceptable to me. Eventually he pulled his pants up—probably a combination of maturity and wanting to shut up his dad.

(I understand that if nearly 70 percent of black children are being raised in households without a father, most boys won’t have the luxury of an authoritative dad laying down a saggy pants ban. That leaves the job to Mom, and to the boy’s extended family, and to the males and authority figures in his community, coming together to let him know that so much more is expected of him than showing his ass to the world.)

But saggy pants are not matters for the criminal justice system to adjudicate, or for the schools to criminalize. Black boys already have too many strikes against them. Let’s not put a crime or ban on the books targeted specifically at them, tracing yet another bulls-eye on their backs, when their main problem is the failure of the grown men in their lives to step up and do their jobs.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

7 Comments

  1. As much as I hate to see sagging pants and never got the trend in high school or college, to make it criminal seems like overkill. I do think it’s the parents responsibility, and if they are failing (which clearly they are) then maybe the schools should respond with detention and other internal disciplinary procedures. But, to arrest and fine boys/men for this is not the direction our criminal system needs to go. Physical expression through clothes is a right as long as there is no nudity…even if I don’t like the look.

    It seems easier to punish this sagging group because it includes mostly young African-American men. Why no laws for girls wearing tights as pants that are see though (it is an epidemic!), the thong showing at the tops of jeans (which seems to be going away), excessive piercing and tattoos, or the baggy, saggy grunge look? All these looks can be seen as indecent to some subset of our population. This new NYC law just strikes me as another way to legally harass young black men, instead of teaching them to do better.

  2. Criminalizing it is overkill, but how do you stop it?

    • By every adult (and female) in their lives hounding them about it on an hourly basis (in my house when my son entered his teens and was trying to fit in with this craziness, my son’s little sisters would come up behind him every day and mess with his pants, pull them up, point and laugh at him to embarrass him), by regularly putting them in settings where the saggy pants would embarrass them (your job, museums, restaurants, libraries, places where they looked ridiculous because they were so out of place), by having their female peers put out the word that it’s nasty, it’s ugly, it’s unsanitary and it’s definitely not cute.

  3. I agree it is weak for us to lean on law enforcement. I agree that there are many homes without the father in them. I don’t understand what is happening in our community. I put knowledge in my DISABLED TEN YEAR OLD SON’s head about the meaning of sagging pants in the penitentiary. I equip him with all that I know about the situations that he will face. I PARENT my son and I will PARENT my daughter in the same manner. I am not sure about when adults started to look for television and school to parent, but clearly this needs to end. My mom couldn’t stand Lil Kim, but I loved her music. Does this mean i went around whoring to little boys and promoting sexual actions, no I was taught respect for self and my self worth.

    Wanting to send this to senate is only an outrage because it is starting affect the new minority, the white male. No one wants to say that this is the reason for these things but truth be told this is the reason and this is why this individual wants the issue pushed so hard.

    What we can do to stop it, we can PARENT our children and teach lessons that show there is no such thing a being a “cool kid” with your pants sagging and looking like the local free gay spirit that resides in the pen.

  4. Personally, This Overly Disgusting “Trend” Is Overkill & It’s More Than Just African American Guys Doing It…It’s Spilled Over Into Every Nationality & Females Are Doing It Too. Perhaps If They Realize There’s Going To Be A High Fine & Or Imprisonment It Would Cease.Parents Nor teachers Can Be With Children 24/7 And; As We Know Some Children Display A Different Face At Home & When Off With Peers Do Something Entirely Different Like, Borrow Each Others Clothes So, Perhaps This Will Work(I Pray It Does) It’s A Disgusting Look & Anyone With An Ounce Of Dignity, Simply Would NOT Do It !!!

  5. Shouldn’t this be as simple as a dress code at school rather than a criminal offense? When I was in school, certain types of attire weren’t allowed. If you showed up in violation, you were made to change.

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