A Federal Judge Deems A North Carolina School’s Dress Code Unconstitutional

A North Carolina charter school's dress code required all female students to wear skirts until the court decided otherwise.

Desks sit in an empty classroom.
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A North Carolina charter school's dress code required all female students to wear skirts until the court decided otherwise.

Parents of female students at the Charter Day School, a prestigious public charter in Leland, North Carolina, have been protesting the school’s mandated dress code. School rules require all female students to wear skirts, skorts, or jumpers to school every day, regardless of the season. Not only do girls risk getting in trouble for showing up at school wearing pants or shorts, but they could even face possible expulsion. Meanwhile, male students have the option to wear pants or shorts, depending on the time of year. In 2016, three parents of female students at the school came together to file a lawsuit against the school on the grounds that the rule places an unnecessary burden on female students that males don’t have to deal with, according to Think Progress.

These parents had daughters ranging from 5-years-old to 14-years-old. They stated that the dress code kept their daughters from freely playing at recess because they were concerned about accidentally flashing their underwear. In addition, the girls always had to be cognizant of the way they sat, something boys didn’t have to worry about. The burden was exacerbated in the winter months when the girls had to be uncomfortably cold due to the low temperatures and their exposed legs.

The lawsuit did point out that while disciplinary action had been threatened, no student had ever been expelled due to violating the dress code since the school opened in 2000. Nevertheless, these parents simply wanted their daughters to have the same clothing options as the boys did. Lucky for them, a federal judge agreed.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard in the Eastern District of North Carolina called Charter Day School’s dress code a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and thus deemed it unconstitutional. As a result, the rule will have to be changed moving forward to allow female students the same dress options as males.

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Bonnie Peltier is a mother of a former Charter Day School student and one of the individuals that filed the lawsuit regarding the dress code.

“All I wanted was for my daughter and every other girl at school to have the option to wear pants so she could play outside, sit comfortably, and stay warm in the winter. We’re happy the court agrees, but it’s disappointing that it took a court order to force the school to accept the simple fact that, in 2019, girls should have the choice to wear pants.”