NC school skirt policy for girls overturned in court

Placeholder while loading article actions

In a charter school in North Carolina, all students follow the same curriculum. But their gender-specific uniform requirements — pants for boys and skirts, skorts, or sweaters for girls — separate them in a way a federal court ruled Tuesday was unconstitutional.

The dress code at Charter Day School in Leland, North Carolina, can no longer be enforced, senior circuit judge Barbara Milano Keenan wrote in a majority opinion. The school founder’s assertion that uniform rules promote chivalry “based on the idea that girls are ‘fragile vessels’ deserving ‘gentle’ treatment by boys” was found to be discriminatory at the school. against female students in the United States’ 10-to-6 decision. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“By implementing the requirement for skirts based on blatant gender stereotypes of the ‘proper place’ for girls and women in society, [the school] acted in flagrant violation of the Equal Protection Clause,” Keenan wrote in the notice.

The decision follows a seven-year effort to end the school’s skirt requirement for female students.

In 2015 Keely Burks, then a 14-year-old eighth grader at Charter Day School, started a petition with her friends to change the uniform policy. They eventually collected over 100 signatures, she wrote in 2016, but the document “was taken from us by a teacher and we never got it back.”

Around the same time, the mother of a kindergarten child inquired about this requirement, which she considered discriminatory. The school’s founder, Baker A. Mitchell, replied to her email, explaining that the Charter Day School was “committed to preserving chivalry and respect between young women and men” and that there was a need to “restore, then preserve, traditional respect for peers,” according to court documents.

Burks, the kindergartener and a fourth grader later became plaintiffs in a 2016 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. They alleged in the lawsuit that being forced to wear skirts prevented them from playing freely, moving actively and feeling as if their comfort was valued as much as that of male students.

“I hope that by challenging my school’s policy, I can help other girls who want to go to school without being stereotyped or who just want to play outside or sit in class without feeling bad about themselves. comfortable,” Burks wrote at the time.

A lengthy court battle ensued, in which decisions regarding the case were swapped between federal and state courts. consider whether the dress code violated the rights of female students.

“No, it’s not 1821 or 1921. It’s 2021,” Keenan, the judge, wrote last summer. “Women serve in the combat units of our armed forces. Women walk in space and bring their talents to the International Space Station. Women sit on our nation’s Supreme Court, in Congress, and today a woman is Vice President of the United States.

To determine the constitutionality of the skirt requirement, the judges considered whether the charter school was a public entity. Charter Day School argued that it was a private entity and that the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause – which prohibits discrimination – did not apply.

But a majority of the federal appeals court ultimately disagreed. Because the charter school receives state funding, the judges wrote, it must follow the same laws and civil rights protections as public schools, which are prohibited from imposing discriminatory dress codes. or censoring student expression.

Aaron Streett, an attorney representing Charter Day School, told the Washington Post that the school was evaluating next steps, adding that the court’s advice “limits parents’ ability to choose the best education for their children.”

For the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the decision was celebrated – even after some are graduates of the K-8 institution.

“I am happy that the girls at Charter Day School can now learn, move and play on an equal footing with the boys at school,” said Bonnie Peltier, the mother of a former pupil involved in the case. . Release. “In 2022, girls shouldn’t have to choose between wearing something that makes them feel uncomfortable or missing instruction time in class.”

Comments are closed.