ACLU’s lawsuit alleges North Carolina charter school’s dress code discriminates against girls

Star News Online reports that  the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) has filed suit in federal court against Charter Day School (CDS) over the school’s dress code. The suit alleges CDS’s dress code, which requires girls to wear skirts, “skorts” or jumper dresses, discriminates against girls on the basis of gender in violation of federal Title IX.

ACLU-NC brought the suit on behalf of the parents of three girls attending CDS. The parents say they have no problem with a uniform policy, but want the option of allowing girls to wear pants or shorts, which boys are allowed to wear. Chris Brook, legal director for ACLU-NC, said that a uniform policy at public schools would be acceptable as long as it was a policy that applied to boys and girls equally and didn’t discriminate based on gender.

However, a number of CDS parents agree with the dress code and do not view it as discriminatory toward female students. In a letter to ACLU-NC, CDS’s attorney, George Fletcher, wrote that the school does not discriminate based on gender. “CDS agrees that all students should be able to attend school and actively participate in school related activities without unfair or unequal treatment based on sex,” Fletcher wrote.

Fletcher argued that case law has sided with schools’ use of dress codes and said the school would not change its policy. “The uniform policy is constitutionally and statutorily permissible and does not violate CDS students’ rights in any manner,” he said.

Several parents pointed out that they were required to sign forms upon a child’s admission to the school stating that they understand the dress code.

Source: Star News Online, 3/1/16, By Tim Buckland

[Editor’s Note: In ACLU-NC’s press release announcing filing of the suit, Galen Sherwin, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, said: 

Although many girls may not mind wearing skirts, no one should be forced to do so based on outdated sex stereotypes.  Requiring all girls to wear skirts reinforces the false notion that girls are less physically active, and should behave in a more typically feminine manner, than boys. Our clients correctly believe that they are equal to boys and should be treated equally by their school—and luckily, the law backs them up.

The legal complaint contains two federal law claims: equal protection and Title IX.]


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