A white T-shirt, long blue shorts and knee-high socks.
Sounds innocent enough, but in Santa Barbara the look is linked to the gang life, and some school officials say it needs to be done away with.
Later this month, the Santa Barbara school board will consider banning the attire from school campuses.
The proposed abolishment of gang-related clothing is part of a larger package of possible new school rules around the bend.
On April 22, Santa Barbara School Districts trustees will consider amending the dress code, tightening up regulations for the use of electronics such as cell phones and iPods, and relaxing current rules on drug- and alcohol-related offenses.
In some respects, the dress-code discussion is familiar. It’s only been a couple of years since the school board last tackled the topic. But back then, the policy affected mostly girls, banning apparel considered to be too scanty, such as midriffs, short shorts and “micro-mini skirts.”
This time around, the most substantial proposed changes affect mostly boys.
The proposal calls for barring plain white T-shirts “when worn in combination with another black or blue T-shirt,” because white and blue signify gang colors locally. The proposed rules also would target:
• Belt buckles with initials
• Handkerchiefs or bandanas
• Knee-length socks when worn with long shorts
• Sagging or oversized pants, or pants worn below the waist
• Black gloves
If the board approves the policy, the new rules will take effect April 23, said Michael Gonzalez, the school district’s compliance director.
Consequences would begin with a warning, and progress to detentions and suspensions, he said.
“The bottom line is, students can’t do anything that’s going to disrupt the educational process — which is fancy language for learning,” he said. “Obviously, provocative clothing, or clothing that affiliates a youngster with gangs, or clothing that makes references to alcohol or drugs, is going to take time away from instruction.”
The proposal is not a slam dunk, however.
School board member Nancy Harter said she wants to hear more discussion among administrators and fellow board members. Harter said when she roams around on a high school campus, “I see lots of guys with their socks higher than their midcalf who are not gang members.”
Still, she said, “We’re not just addressing gang attire, we’re also addressing wannabes who may dress that way but are not gang affiliated — yet are branding themselves (as such).”
Some believe the proposed dress-code amendments could go even further.
David Hodges , an assistant principal at Santa Barbara High, said he wouldn’t be opposed to a mandate requiring students to dress professionally. Some schools in Southern California have adopted the model, he said.
“People would call it a uniform, but I’m not,” he said. “I’m looking at it as professional attire for a professional place. … I’m interested in putting the focus on education through their attire.”
Currently, the look on the campus of Santa Barbara High is pretty varied.
The plain-white T-shirt look is clearly popular among boys, many of whom are Latino, although not all. Also ubiquitous is the saggy-jeans style. A select few boys come to school decked out in the full-on look, with the white shirt, the long blue shorts and the high socks.
Students, meanwhile, seem split on the notion of nixing gang attire.
Freshman Roque Carrillo, who on Friday afternoon was a walking billboard for the style in question, said if the new rules go through, he’d keep dressing the same way, “to see what they’d do about it.”
“And I’m no gang member, either,” he said firmly. “Just because I dress like this doesn’t mean I’m a gangster.”
Emanuel Sanchez also wore a variation of the look, although his version did not involve the knee-high socks.
“I think it’s just really pinpointing a certain group of people,” he said.
His friend, Briana Mendoza, chimed in, “We live in America, this is a free country. You should be able to wear anything without getting judged.”
“The main gang colors are white combined with blue,” she said, although she added that the gang problem in Santa Barbara pales in comparison to that of Merced, where she once lived. “Here it’s pretty relaxed.”
One girl, while walking back to school after lunch with a group of friends, said students tend to be intimidated by the boys who dress that way.
“It depends on how they wear it,” added the girl, who asked that her name not be used. “Some people just wear long socks because it’s cold.”