In October, a Memphis man was arrested after he allegedly shot a teenager in the butt for wearing saggy pants. But Westside Middle School in Frayser is taking a more light-hearted approach.
For the past six weeks, boys who come to school wearing pants too far below their navel are "Urkeled" — staff members fasten the offender's pants at or above their belly button using plastic zip ties.
The idea was the brainchild of Westside Middle parent liaison Theodore King, who said he'd rather see kids wearing their pants à la Steve Urkel, the nerdy neighbor known for his high-water pants on the late-'90s TV show Family Matters.
"Sagging pants is a cultural thing that we're trying to fight within these [school] walls," King said.
When the initiative began six weeks ago, King said administrators were zip-tying the pants of about 75 kids a day. But on the Monday after Thanksgiving break, only four students came to school with their pants too low.
"Before, it was rare to see a young man who was not sagging, because that was culturally acceptable. Now that's shifting, and it's becoming culturally acceptable to pull your pants up," said Westside Middle School technology teacher and administrator Shaka Greene, the winner of the Steve Urkel trophy for zip-tying the pants of the most students each week.
"All the men who work at Westside dress for success every day, because many of our young male students don't have that example in their community. They didn't know that pulling your pants up is necessary for success in the business community," said Westside principal Bobby White.
Before the Urkel initiative, students were written up for saggy pants and ordered to pull them up. But White said many students would pull them back down later in the day. Now students are not written up, but the embarassment of wearing high-water, zip-tied pants all day seems be effective.
"Our young ladies laugh at the boys who are Urkeled. They think it's the most hysterical thing," Greene said.
Eighth-grader Keldrion Vann said he's been Urkeled about "11 or 12 times" with his most recent saggy-pants offense just last week. But he blames his recent Urkeling on forgetting his belt.
"It will probably happen again this week, but I've learned to at least try to remember my belt," Vann said.
Westside also has begun encouraging boys to dress in suits and ties on Tuesdays. Girls are encouraged to dress in business attire on Thursdays.
"What we're trying to teach is that you have to look a certain way to succeed," White said. "Eventually, we envision all of our young men wearing vests and blazers."