On Monday, August 14, more than 125,000 students in northeastern Texas will head back to school. And sadly, not one of them will be wearing a diamond-encrusted grill.
That's because four districts in the region have taken the "pre-emptive" measure of barring students from wearing mouth jewelry of any kind, depressing thousands of gangstas-in-training and no doubt putting a serious dent in grill-master — and Houston native — Paul Wall's business plans (see "Newlywed Paul Wall Grilling With 'Girls,' Wants To Chop And Screw Biggie").
The ban, which was passed by the boards of trustees in the Arlington, Irving, Grand Prairie and DeSoto districts, aims to eliminate grills because they are, as one board member put it, "a major distraction issue."
"It was starting to become a thing of, 'Who can come to school with the biggest grill?' " Arlington School Board President Sherri Wade said. "And that's not what school is supposed to be about. I mean, those things are expensive — you can put diamonds in them, they're gaudy — so let's leave them in the videos or in the shopping malls."
Wade, herself a teacher in a neighboring district, said there really hasn't been an issue with grills in schools yet, but when the board of trustees met on June 15 to discuss Arlington's dress code, banning them became a major priority.
"We haven't had any real problems with them now, and I'm of the belief that kids should be able to wear anything they want within reason," she said. "But having been in education for 16 years now, I've seen plenty of trends come and go, and grills really appear to be on the rise. So we decided to do some forward thinking and catch them before they really caught on."
In the past, American schools have blocked students from wearing T-shirts bearing specific messages, baseball caps, baggy pants and camouflage clothing (see "School Bans Camouflage Clothing To Defuse Immigration Debate"), citing health, security and concentration concerns.
And while grills might have gotten the kibosh in Texas, they certainly weren't the only body accoutrement that came under scrutiny. The Arlington board also decided to prohibit students from wearing earlobe-stretching "gauges," citing a concern for student safety.
"The athletes in the district aren't supposed to wear jewelry because it can get caught on a helmet or something like that," Wade said. "So we decided to ban [gauges] too, because imagine if two students passed in the halls and got their earlobes tangled."
And Wade is quick to point out that she and the other members of the Arlington board of trustees aren't against students' rights to express themselves. After all, they were all high school students at one point too.
"I was in high school in the '70s, and we wore the same things then that kids wear now, so there's not a lot that can shock me," she laughed. "I just wish the whole baggy thing would go away. And I don't want to see any [breasts or rear ends]. Other than that, I think I leave it up to the kids to decide what to wear.
"It's a judgment call," she concluded. "Feel free to wear your grills when you're not in school, just take them out when you walk through these doors."