Spongebob gang references confusing school dress code

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It's a decision we make every day -- what to wear.

As a teen in school, that decision seems more important than ever, but you may need to think twice before putting on your favorite shirt in the morning.

What most people see as an innocent cartoon, some say has multiple gang references.

"He wears a red tie, he eats Krabby cakes -- that's a derogatory word for a gang, crab. And then, his best friend Patrick is a five-point star and that could possibly represent a blood set people gang," explained Gang Intervention Specialist Devon Harris.

Surprised? Well you're not the only one, and it's causing confusion when kids get dressed for school.

"The parents don't realize it has meaning, or the kid doesn't realize it has meaning. They just like it and it looks good," said School Resource Officer Sgt. Earl Roberts.

"They use that word or symbols to be cryptic in the normal world. They can still represent who they are and us as normal people won't even know what it is," Harris said.

Roberts says that's why the dress code is so important.

"When we do the dress policy, we try to make it where we don't have any issues, and we're not stereotyping other kids, so if we know that it's being used by gangs and for identifiers or claiming to show who they are and we see other people wearing it, we try to get it out of the system," Roberts said.

Keeping gang-related clothing out of school can be hard when the line between gang symbols and fashion blurs.

"A lot of that is due with the crowns and stuff that they'll wear on their necklaces. They also wear bandanas," Roberts said.

"We can't have normal things. You know, things that are of normalcy to us and wholesome to our kids," Harris said.

Roberts says the more prevalent fad right now are rosary beads. A child who came to school wearing a Spongebob shirt would probably not be asked to take it off or turn it inside out, but a child wearing rosary beads may face disciplinary action.

He says it all comes down to safety and keeping disturbances out of the learning environment.

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