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Sagging pants ordinance proposed to Claxton City Council

POSTED: February 27, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Councilman Jerome Woody wants Claxton City Council to consider a dress code for the public, or at least an ordinance against pants that sag so much that they fall down or reveal the wearer's underwear.
Such laws have been getting attention around the country as part of a reaction, often from African-American community leaders, against the style of dress and other habits young people have adopted from the hip hop music scene. When Woody brought the idea up at last week's council meeting, his pastor, the Rev. John Leggett of St. John Missionary Baptist Church, and a couple of interested citizens were in the audience but did not ask to speak to the council.
"Today in our country there is a national, cultural crisis occurring in our communities regarding the dress and appearance of our youth in public," Woody said, reading a prepared statement. "It is really a national disgrace to witness our young people in the community and in the public dressed as if they have absolutely no home training and no regard for human decency and no respect for our authority figures and institutions."
His statement further called it "a travesty to see our youth walk around with their pants sagging almost to the ground."
"These young people are supposed to be our future, but what kind of example are they setting for the future leadership when they have no respect for their appearance and feel good about imitating the way convicts and felons dress while incarcerated," Woody said.
After suggesting that the city's response should be an ordinance, he shared an incident he had witnessed recently. Woody was at McDonald's getting coffee, he said, when a young man came in holding up his pants.
"And as soon as he reached to get his money out of his pocket his pants dropped to his knees...." Woody said. "It's just embarrassing, and I think that it has a lot to do with discipline problems, attitude problems, and it may not be a popular stand, but I think we need to make a stand and do the right thing."
Claxton Mayor Luther Royal expressed support for a local ordinance if one can be made legal and enforceable. But he observed that to violate the state law against public indecency, someone has to show "bare skin," while the baggy pants wearers he has seen locally are at most showing their underwear.
"I agree with you totally," Royal told Woody. "Let's think about it and we can have a workshop or whatever and come back and see what we can devise."
Other council members expressed agreement that there is a problem.
"It's a disgrace," said Councilman McKinley Brown Jr. "Some of the ones locally that I've seen here in town, please excuse my immodesty, but some of them it's so low on their back that you see their crack, if you please, and that's nakedness."
The city needs to start somewhere, whether its ordinance is "turned down" or not, Brown added.
Royal said the idea would be discussed again and the city attorney consulted.
Police Chief Edward Oglesbee Jr. also referred to the state public indecency law and its limitations. The law, Georgia Code 16-6-8, prohibits sex or fondling or display of sex organs or "a lewd appearance in a state of partial or complete nudity" in public places.
"There's not anything you can do because a man shows his underwear, or a girl for that matter," Oglesbee said. "Now, there is a city in Georgia that has a city ordinance, but it hasn't been tested in court, so we don't know how it's going to stand, but anyway I agree with y'all. I think it ought to be covered up, myself."
Brunswick's city council recently enacted a public indecency ordinance against partial nudity after a baggy pants ordinance failed to garner enough support. Atlanta's city government has also considered such an ordinance.
Claxton City Council will meet next on Feb. 19 at 6 p.m.
 

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