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View from here - Why pupils' dress sense is pants

Italy may be the land of high fashion, but youngsters' enthusiasm for low-riding bumsters is driving teachers to distraction, says Michael Fitzpatrick

Italy may be the land of high fashion, but youngsters' enthusiasm for low-riding bumsters is driving teachers to distraction, says Michael Fitzpatrick

Through the ages teachers have gazed ruefully at their pupils' astonishingly varied attempts to transgress the school dress code. They have seen it all: neckties reduced to tangled knots or loosely threaded below the throat like a louche cravat, trousers as voluminous as curtains, and skirts rolled up at the waist.

But the fashion for slinging jeans and trousers below the hips has reached an all-time low - literally.

A street fashion that has its roots in prisons where inmates are denied belts for fear of assisting suicide has now become a global epidemic around the hips of the young.

Even Italy - Armani's Italy no less! - has succumbed to the sloppiest look since Nero let his toga slip.

For one teacher at a school on Lake Como, the sea of elasticated cotton waistbands (and worse) displayed in his art lesons was too much. So by way of demonstrating the aesthetic shortcomings of peeping undies, he reportedly dropped his own trousers during class.

Illustrating what happens if one tries to "get in wid da kids", the horrified students hastily reported their teacher's performance to the head, who is now considering disciplinary action.

Luigi Zecca, principal of Fogazzaro Middle School, said he agreed pupils should leave their slatternly undie- baring gear at home, but thought the art tutor had "gone too far" in an "over-zealous" attempt to show students the so-called "low-rise" fad wasn't as cool as they thought.

"If I see kids coming into school dressed inappropriately, I say something but I certainly don't drop my trousers," he told the local paper.

The Como teacher's pains would have been spared if only Italy's reform-minded education minister had moved more quickly in her plan to reintroduce the school smock, or grembiule (as reported in The TES last year).

Gabriella Giammanco had been keen to bring it back as part of the Italian school uniform of yesteryear, to help end the parade of bare midriffs and low-riding jeans.

If that plan ever succeeds, Italy's youth may want to take legal action over their human rights, for there is precedent for it elsewhere in Europe - namely in the UK.

In May, a district judge ruled at Bedford magistrates court that an 18-year-old's human rights had been infringed because his Asbo included a ban on "wearing trousers so low beneath the waistline that members of the public are able to see his underwear".

Italian schools, in turn, may seek to emulate US-style bum-and-pants cover-up operations. In 2007, officials in Dallas embarked on a "Pull Your Pants Up" campaign while in St Petersburg, Florida, a high school head handed out plastic zip ties last year to force students to belt their trousers up.

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