A shocking little ditty appeared today on The Buzz, the political blog of the St. Petersberg Times, about the passage through subcommittee of what most folks are calling the "sagging pants bill." The bill is what is sounds like. The "sagging pants bill," HB 61, is known less colloquially as the "Code of Student Conduct" bill, and it includes comprehensive dress code regulations for public school students.
The dress code is probably a good idea. As school uniform proponents have understood forever, adolescence is stressful enough without worrying about the vagaries of fashion. Less obviously inspired is the bill's insistence that kids without a 2.0 GPA be barred from extracurricular activities during their junior and senior years. What effect will that have on kids who are (rightfully) bored out of their minds in class but excel at forensics or band? Or, less sympathetically (but no less significantly), football? For some kids, extracurriculars are the only ticket out of town.
But forget about that for a moment, because there's something far weirder and more perverse about this bill than its contents: its supporters. The Buzz story featured a really remarkable quote from one of these creatures, a Republican representative from Naples named Kathleen Passidomo. Here it is. Brace yourself.
There was an article about an 11 year old girl who was gangraped in Texas by 18 young men because she was dressed up like a 21-year-old prostitute. And her parents let her attend school like that. And I think it's incumbent upon us to create some areas where students can be safe in school and show up in proper attire so what happened in Texas doesn't happen to our students.
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Whoa! We can debate the merits of the bill a little later, but I think it's incumbent upon us, as sentient mammals, to devote a moment to a collective wince. As a genus, politicians aren't the brightest wicks in the candelabra, but they usually possess sufficient self-awareness to shield the public from the horrorshows of their minds. Blaming the rape of an 11-year-old girl on her parents' sense of fashion -- and to do so out loud -- smacks of rank amateurism. A devastating attack ad will probably result from this slip-up, and unlike most attack ads, it will be richly deserved.
Update: Read our followup on Rep. Passidomo's response here.
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