• 73°

US judge: School’s rule for girls to wear skirts breaks law

By EMERY P. DALESIO, Associated Press

RALEIGH— A North Carolina charter school promoting traditional values engaged in unconstitutional sex discrimination by requiring girls to wear skirts, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard ruled that Charter Day School can’t enforce the skirts-only rule as part of its dress code that punishes violations with suspensions and even expulsion. No child has been expelled for violating the dress code since the school opened in 2000, Howard said in a decision filed on Thursday, March 28.

But girls are clearly treated differently than boys at the kindergarten through eighth grade school in Leland, about 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) west of Wilmington, Howard ruled. That’s a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection requirements.

The guardians of three girls attending the school sued the school in 2016. They said the dress code forces girls to be colder in the winter and “forces them to pay constant attention to the positioning of their legs during class, distracting them from learning, and has led them to avoid certain activities altogether, such as climbing or playing sports during recess, all for fear of exposing their undergarments and being reprimanded by teachers or teased by boys,” the judge said in summarizing the plaintiffs’ arguments.

One of the mothers suing with the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of their daughters said the judge’s decision means a girl’s comfort and freedom to move is on par with their male classmates.

“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,” Bonnie Peltier said in a statement provided by the ACLU. “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.”

Charter schools are public schools — funded by state taxpayers — that are allowed to do many things differently than traditional public schools. In the case of Charter Day School, it is run by a nonprofit organization but contracts with a for-profit company to run business and academic operations.

Howard ruled that though North Carolina charter schools and their nonprofit board members are not the state’s agents in every respect, Charter Day School’s leaders were acting under color of state law when they adopted a disciplinary code that included punishing children who didn’t wear the prescribed uniforms.

Roger Bacon Academy, which runs the school and three other charters in the Wilmington area, and its founder, Baker Mitchell, did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Members of the school’s nonprofit board said its student uniform requiring all students to wear white or navy blue tops tucked into khaki or blue bottoms is part of its traditional values education known to parents when they enroll their children.

Changing any of the school’s specific requirements risks changing its broader goal and results that have included test scores higher than nearby traditional public schools, the judge summarized the board as contending.

But school leaders failed to provide “any facts showing specifically how the skirts requirement furthers this success,” Howard wrote.

Follow Emery P. Dalesio on Twitter at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/emery%20dalesio

READ ABOUT MORE NEWS AND EVENTS HERE.

RECENT HEADLINES:

Coastal Studies Institute to host open house

School board actions chronicled

News

Water flows again in Avon; boil water advisory in effect

Lifestyles

Dare Day postponed until next year

News

NCDOT issues reminder to avoid pedestrian pier during construction

News

Body of North Carolina man missing since Thursday found at lake shore

News

Manteo commissioners schedule hearing for text amendments

Crime

North Carolina man sentenced to 14 years in prison for drug, firearm charges

News

Duck Town Council approves ordinance changes

News

Water alert issued for Avon

Lifestyles

Coast Guard medal awarded to Nags Head lifeguard

Crime

North Carolina man sentenced to 15 years in prison for firearm charge

News

State Supreme Court: Students can use constitution to fight bullying

News

Former North Carolina judge censured for sexual misconduct

News

United States COVID-19 vaccine surplus continues to grow; expiration dates loom

News

Dare commissioners adopt budget, set up Avon beach nourishment districts

Crime

North Carolina Supreme Court upholds murder charge in starvation death of 4-year-old child

News

North Carolina Senate gives final approval to $2 billion tax-cut plan

Crime

One killed and three wounded in North Carolina shooting

Lifestyles

The Lost Colony dazzles in 84th season

Lifestyles

Food giveaway Saturday in Columbia

News

Cooper announces drawings for million-dollar prizes and college tuition to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations

News

Manteo commissioners adopt town budget for 2022

News

North Carolina ban on abortions on basis of race, sex or Down syndrome goes to governor

Crime

Feds accuse North Carolina woman of pushing fake COVID-19 cure

Columnist

Column: Seeking justice for Brenda Joyce Holland