Dallas Morning News: Move over, baggy pants. Saggy pants? Old news.
"Skinny pants" are the newest rage, and at least one area school district is aiming to keep them off school campuses.
Seth Chamlee, a student at Kimbrough Middle School in Mesquite, found that out the hard way on Tuesday. School administrators gave him a choice: Go home, or trade his skin-tight skinny pants for slacks provided by the school.
He went home. And he's going to stay there.
"We're going to home schooling," the boy's mother, Cindy Pope, said Wednesday. "He can learn more without the distraction of what to wear."
As the fashion trend grows, more and more students are showing up wearing skinny pants in schools. Administrators in several area school districts say they're not a major problem as long as they are not deemed to be immodest or disruptive.
But in the Mesquite school district, the pants are banned outright. The district, which boasts one of North Texas' most conservative dress codes, only this year granted female teachers permission to wear open-toed shoes and male teachers the right to sport facial hair.
"We don't allow striped shirts or check shirts," said Laura Jobe, a district spokeswoman. "There are certain types of clothes that are not acceptable dress style."
Tight and tapered
Skinny pants are tapered so they fit the legs, the opposite of bellbottoms. They came on the fashion scene about five years ago, as a uniform for models and their rocker boyfriends.
Now, skinnies, stovepipes and jeggings -- jeans so tight they resemble leggings -- have become a wardrobe staple, available from the walnut shelves of Barneys New York to the plastic hangers of Walmart.
Seth, a seventh-grader, wore a pair of black skinny pants with a dark belt to class Tuesday morning. As first period started, he was quickly sent to the office, his mother said.
Jobe said administrators determined Seth's pants were too tight and low-cut, and that his appearance was disruptive when he sat down, all of which is against school policy.
Pope said her son couldn't have disrupted the class with his appearance because he never made it there. Ian Halperin, another schools district spokesman, said he did not know whether the boy had gone to class but that he was observed sitting in the office.
The district's standardized dress policy calls for solid polo-style shirts, turtlenecks or dress shirts and Docker-style pants but no jeans. Pants must fit at the waist, and belts must be worn. And clothes must be "appropriately sized," according to the policy, not too big, not too small.
Jobe said Kimbrough students had been explicitly told that skinny pants did not meet the code. But she didn't know whether parents had been told as well.
Pope said she didn't know the pants were banned. She said she had seen other students wearing similar slacks to the school.
She said Seth has had some minor run-ins with school administrators before about the length of his hair. It was a little too long, touching his eyebrows or longer than his ears on the sides. "He's not a behavioral problem," she said.
After being featured on a television news report, Seth was deeply embarrassed by the attention, Pope said. He wouldn't talk about the incident.
The Mesquite school district has had a history of conservative dress. In the 1960s and 1970s, district officials battled students over hair length, once sending a 10-year-old boy home because his hair reached his shirt collar.
In 1970, the district laid down firm rules against dress and behavior deemed to be disruptive. It was among the first in the area to adopt a dress standard.
"It's just a part of our district culture," Jobe said. "It's a belief that employees and students should dress in a certain way. We call it the business of school."
The state grants authority to districts to set their own dress codes, which means standards can vary from district to district and even campus to campus. Dress codes have been a touchy subject for years, said Barbara Williams with the Texas Association of School Boards.
While there are no firm statistics, dress codes haven't been as controversial in recent years as districts deal with finance problems.
Many area districts don't prohibit tight pants for girls or boys, though a few dress codes address two other recent fads, saggy and baggy pants.
Reavis Wortham, a Garland school district spokesman, said baggy pants have been popular, but "I've seen principals tell [students] to pull them up and they pull them up."
Wortham and officials in other districts, including Dallas, Richardson, Plano and Allen, said skinny pants have not been a problem.
In the Irving and Carrollton-Farmers Branch school districts, the student codes of conduct are written in a broad manner that prohibit outfits deemed as immodest or disruptive, no matter what fashion wave gives rise to them.
Officials said principals could deem extremely tight pants or skinny jeans in violation of their respective code's provisions on modesty.
"If they're just really worn so tight, they would be considered to be immodest," said Lane Ladewig, Irving's campus operations director.
In Mesquite, Jobe said that although district officials don't necessarily have a problem with skinny pants outside of class, they're not appropriate for school.
Pope disagreed. On Tuesday, she told a local TV station she was going to appeal the district's decision. But a day later, she said she decided to pull Seth out of school instead.
"To not be getting your education because of pants ... I don't want him to learn that," she said.
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