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Mervyn's Ads Say No to Gang-Style Dress : Education: Temple City educator complained of pants for young men hanging below the hips. Oversized white shirts are also out.

March 28, 1993|RICHARD WINTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

TEMPLE CITY — The sagging pants in the ad raised Temple City schools Supt. Clinton Taylor's ire. Mervyn's should stop promoting the gang look to teen-agers, he wrote the clothing retailer.

To his surprise, the company agreed.

Mervyn's revised its advertising guidelines for their newspaper insert, which reaches more than 2 million readers in 15 states, after Taylor complained on behalf of the Board of Education.

"Mervyn's has a reputation for being so clean-cut," company spokesman Chuck McFadden said last week. "We were very concerned that people thought we were promoting a gang look. That is why we acted."

McFadden said the company decided to change the ads because families are the store's primary customers.

Taylor said he was surprised and pleased that the retailer responded to his letter. Two distinctive features of gang style, pants hanging below the hips and oversized white shirts, have stopped appearing.

"We will make changes in the attitude of the models and in the way the merchandise fits," Susan Sprunk, Mervyn's vice president of sales promotion, wrote to Taylor last December.

Taylor said he wrote to Mervyn's because many of the district's parents and students shop there. He said the letter was inspired by discussions with parents on how to prevent the growth of gangs in the city.

Although Temple City only has a few minor gangs, he said, gang activity has been increasing near campuses. The 4,700-student district has one high school, one intermediate school and four elementary schools.

"We have a gang prevention task force which meets monthly. Through this group, we learned we have to be vigilant about the attire of our students," he said.

"Parents, teachers and administrators at these meetings," he said, "have all learned from law enforcement and gang experts that these clothes express the desire to be a part of the gang life style."

Taylor said that part of the district's anti-gang efforts include a district dress code that bans baseball caps, certain earrings, baggy clothing and attire that is revealing, he said.

"If you look like a gangbanger, we send you home," said Jim Johnson, district director of child welfare and attendance who heads the gang task force.

Many of the students who are sent home changed on the way to school, he said. And other parents, he said, just "don't realize what these clothes represent."

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