Fourth Circuit Strikes Down Skirt Requirement for Girls
June 17, 2022 by Heather Fuller
Skirts (dresses) Not Required
The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently struck down a North Carolina charter school’s dress code requirement that female students wear skirts, skorts, or jumpers. The 10-6 ruling in Peltier v. Charter Day School Inc. determined that the charter school, which receives 95% of its funding from federal, state, and local governments, is a state actor and thereby subject to the Constitution. The full panel concluded that the gender-specific dress code violated the Equal Protection Clause and may violate Title IV of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Senior Judge Barbara Milano Keenan authored the majority opinion as well as a separate opinion, joined by another judge, addressing the school’s argument that because the girls at the school “succeed,” the skirt requirement is harmless and has no effect on the students. Judge Keenan wrote, “It is irrelevant how well these students performed despite carrying the burden of unequal treatment. We cannot excuse discrimination because its victims are resilient enough to persist in the face of such unequal treatment.”
This decision is a significant development of the law as it recognized the harms of gender stereotypes; its impact will likely go beyond antiquated school dress codes. It is insulting to assume that females must wear skirts in order to receive the courtesy and respect that all individuals deserve. The decision to wear a skirt or pants is a personal choice and one that should not be dictated. Young girls should be taught that their agency and strength are not tied to a skirt, dress, or pants. Rather, it comes from within. Remember, it was never a dress.