WILMINGTON, N.C. – A federal appeals court has ruled that a North Carolina charter school violated female students’ rights by requiring them to wear skirts, reversing a previous decision.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled 10-6 that the dress code at Charter Day School in Leland is a violation of Title IX – a federal law protecting students in public schools from gender-based discrimination.
The school opened in 2000 to teach students from kindergarten through 8th grade and to promote “traditional values.”
In 2016, guardians of three girls attending Charter filed a lawsuit against the school claiming that its dress code prohibiting female students from wearing shorts or pants, was discrimination.
In 2019, a district court found that as a state actor, the school was in violation of the Equal Protections Clause of the constitution.
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That ruling was sent to a court of appeals panel last August and was overruled, 2-1.
The panel sent the ruling back to the district court to consider whether the school violated the Title IX federal protections of students in public schools from gender-based discrimination.
The district court ruled that the dress code did not violate Title IX because the law does not apply to dress codes, but the full appeals court overturned that in a 10-6 ruling.
“I’m glad the girls at Charter Day School will now be able to learn, move, and play on equal terms as the boys in school,” Bonnie Peltier, a plaintiff whose daughter attended the school, said in a statement. “In 2022, girls shouldn’t have to decide between wearing something that makes them uncomfortable or missing classroom instruction time.”
The appeals court based in Richmond, Virginia, on Tuesday said in its decision that girls at the school were excluded from educational opportunities and experienced “emotional and dignitary harm” when they were not allowed to wear pants while boys at the school were.
It also upheld the district court’s decision that the charter school is a state actor and is therefore subject to the Equal Protections Clause, despite being run by a private entity, Roger Bacon Academy.
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“By implementing the skirts requirement based on blatant gender stereotypes about the ‘proper place’ for girls and women in society, CDS has acted in clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause,” the court ruling says.
The dress code, according to the school, was put in place to instill chivalry and respect between boys and girls. It promotes that girls are “a fragile vessel that men are supposed to take care of and honor,” said the school’s director Baker Mitchell, who was quoted in the lawsuit.
Contributing: The Associated Press.
This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: North Carolina school can’t require girls to wear skirts, court rules