North Carolina School Challenged for Dress Code Requirements

Calista Self, Staff Writer

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Many schools around the United States have demanded change for their dress code policies. Students, parents, and faculty members have stated that dress codes are sexist and punish young girls. These codes, like shorts length or no showing shoulders, have mainly affected the women in schools. One Judge in North Carolina claims that the dress code that requires girls to wear skirts is unconstitutional.

A lawsuit against Charter Day School in Leland, North Carolina was originally charged in 2016 asking to change its policy of requiring girls to wear skirts or be punished. Now the ACLU is backing the students who are involved in this lawsuit. One student stated, “My school requires girls to wear skirts to promote ‘chivalry’ and ‘traditional values’, or risk being punished.” The students who filed the lawsuit say their reasoning for filing is that wearing skirts distracts from their academics, makes physical activity a challenge, and makes girls cold and uncomfortable in class. However, the school defends itself by stating that the dress code rules enforced upon girls and other policies is to uphold the idea of “chivalry” and instill traditional values and establish discipline. The punishment for not following these set rules could result in calling the student’s parent, removal from class, or even expulsion.

Malcolm Howard, the U.S. district judge, ruled in favor of the students. He has stated, “The skirt requirement causes the girls to suffer a burden the boys do not, simply because they are female.” Howard believes that all schools should change their policies and requirements to affect everyone equally. The dress code that Charter Day School has is unconstitutional and also violates the equal protection clause. Howard also claims that there is no link between the school’s stated goals and their requirements for the skirts. Howard stated, “The plaintiffs in this case have shown that the girls are subject to a specific clothing requirement that renders them unable to play as freely during recess, requires them to sit in an uncomfortable manner in the classroom, causes them to be overly focused on how they are sitting, distracts them from learning, and subjects them to cold temperatures on their legs and/or uncomfortable layers of leggings under their knee-length skirts in order to stay warm, especially moving outside between classrooms at the school. Defendants have offered no evidence of any comparable burden on boys.”

The Charter Day School is one of four Wilmington, North Carolina-area charter that are governed by nonprofit groups that hires a for-profit firm to coordinate all aspects of their operation. Since the charter schools receive money from taxpayers, it is technically a public school. However, charter schools have more flexibility than public schools.

Parents of the students are relieved to see the policy go. Bonnie Peltier, a mother of a Charter Day School student, says that all she wanted for her daughter was to be comfortable at school, warm, and able to move around. Her and many other parents say that they are happy the rules have changed, but disappointed that the court was forced to change the policy of the school. The simple fact is that it is 2019 and girls should be allowed to have the choice of wearing pants to school. Most professions even require pants, so why should schools enforce their students to wear skirts?

Dress codes have come a long way since the beginning, especially for young women and girls. As America pushes towards a more equal world between men and women small cases, such as this, deserve more attention and should be taken seriously. We, as Americans, should realize that the equalization between men and women is a good thing. A dress code should not be enforced for the wrong reasons like young boys/men being unable to control their lust. Dress codes may be a small step, but it is a step in the right direction for a better future.

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