Student given detention for wearing Playboy pants

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Gateway High School junior Elizabeth Johnson got an unexpected fashion lesson this week: two days of detention for wearing a pair of sweats with the Playboy name and logo on them.

Elizabeth says she was accosted by a dean who insisted she change the offending pants, and she eventually did. But the 17-year-old insists the school overreacted.

"The bunny is just a logo," she said. "There's nothing objectionable about that." Elizabeth's black pants have the iconic bunny printed on the front and the word "Playboy" printed across the back in red letters.

The teenager, a cheerleader who is enrolled in the school's demanding International Baccalaureate program, said she understands the brand's connection to soft-core pornography. But there's a distinction between the Playboy brand, which is increasingly favored by young girls, and the magazine, which features nude women, she said.

"They're black sweats," said Elizabeth. "They are thick, cotton, exercise pants. ... I was dressed tastefully."

District officials said dress code enforcement is left to individual schools.

Part of Elizabeth's disappointment, she said, has to do with what she called a "fuzzy" dress code policy.

There's nothing in the school district's dress code manual that says you can't wear the Playboy brand -- or any other brand for that matter -- yet school officials can ban clothing that displays messages or images considered "offensive, suggestive, or indecent."

"It's school-based management ... and every school is different." said Osceola school district spokeswoman Martha Mann. "What kids are wearing on one side of the county may be different from what they're wearing on the other side."

Playboy says it's the parents who should be doing the policing.

"Playboy always has encouraged parents to participate in their children's lives," said Lauren Melone, a spokeswoman for Playboy Enterprises Inc. "We believe that decisions regarding what teenagers watch, activities they participate in and clothes they wear are best determined by each individual's family."

Melone also said the company markets its line of products to consumers 18 to 34 years old.

But the appeal of Playboy products to younger people has stirred controversy. In 2005, several London schoolgirls protested against a store selling Playboy-branded stationery. In 2006, school officials in El Cajon banned clothing with the Playboy logo.

Elizabeth says she wears the brand because "it's cute" and because she likes brand names.

But Amanda Engle, a senior, said the logo had no place in school.

"It's common sense -- keep the adult things at home," said Engle. "It is offensive, because Playboy represents the adoration of a shallow and spoiled culture, where real beauty is tossed aside and replaced by silicone and skin cancer."

Elizabeth says she has no intention of wearing the brand to school again.

"I just think it should be clear in the (dress code) handbook," she said. "Either that or they should go to uniforms. I did not wake up in the morning looking for trouble ... it's just a pair of pants."