The U.S. Supreme Court this week asked the Biden administration to weigh in on a dispute in North Carolina over a charter school requiring girls to wear skirts as part of the dress code.
The high court asked Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar for the federal government’s opinion on a dispute brought by Charter Day School, located in a rural area outside of Wilmington, North Carolina.
The charter school operates with government funding, but under a contract with the state, it’s subject to only minimal government oversight, compared to other public schools.
The school, along with parents, implemented a uniform policy requiring students to wear white or navy blue tops tucked into khaki or blue bottoms. Boys must wear pants or shorts, and girls must wear skirts, skorts or jumpers.
Three students challenged the policy in court, arguing it runs afoul of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and state law.
The federal appeals court sided with the students, prompting the school to ask the Supreme Court to consider the case.
In a court filing, the school argues that the lower court’s move threatens the charter school model, which empowers parents with minimal government oversight.
“This holding undoes the central feature of charter schools by treating their private operators as the constitutional equivalent of government-run schools, squelching innovation and restricting parental choice,” the school said.
The students challenging the uniform rules argue the school must be subject to federal law.
They say the skirts restrict the female students’ ability to be active during recess and expose their underwear in certain scenarios, like when crawling during tornado and fire drills. They also say they can be warmer in pants in the winter.
“One student explained that the skirts requirement ‘sends the message that girls should be less active than boys and that they are more delicate than boys,’ with the result that boys ‘feel empowered’ and ‘in a position of power over girls,’” they argued in their brief.
A parent of one of the students, Bonnie Peltier, said the school’s founder told her the policy was implemented to “emphasize ‘chivalry.’”
It would take four justices to vote in favor of hearing the dispute.
The case is Charter Day School v. Peltier.