Three years ago, an eighth grade student named Keely Burks created a petition at Charter Day School in Leland, North Carolina. That petition asked for a simple change: that girls be allowed to wear pants and not be punished. That’s because, at Keely’s public charter school, girls were required to wear skirts in order to uphold what officials considered “traditional values” that promoted “chivalry.” When her petition was taken away by a teacher, Keely and two other students, along with their parents, turned to the ACLU-NC for help.
When school officials refused to change their outdated and illegal policy, we filed a lawsuit on the students’ behalf, arguing that the requirement for all girls to wear skirts violates the Constitution.
This March, in a victory for our clients and for gender equality, a federal court struck down the school’s dress code, finding that “the skirts requirement causes the girls to suffer a burden the boys do not, simply because they are female.”
Charter Day School’s dress code was both outdated and discriminatory.
“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," said Bonnie Peltier, the mother of one of the three students represented by the ACLU-NC. “In 2019, girls should have the choice to wear pants. We’re happy the court agrees.”
Thanks to our brave clients, this ruling will be a warning to other schools who continue to subject their students to dress codes that unfairly target girls. In this day and age, treating girls different than boys isn’t “chivalrous”— it’s sexism, plain and simple.