How would you feel if your child’s school made it a rule that girls can’t wear pants? That’s exactly the case at one school in North Carolina—and parents are not having it.

At the Charter Day School in Leland, North Carolina girls are only allowed to wear skirts, skorts or jumpers—no pants, no shorts.  Understandably, many students and parents are unhappy with the policy and some are now suing the school to have it changed. Representatives for the Charter Day School did not immediately return Red Tricycle’s request for comment.

Photo: Sgt. Zach Mott via U.S. Department of Defense

Erika Booth, a parent of a student at the school, told TODAY she and two other families are suing the Charter Day School in order to change the dress code. “Once I found out there was a lawsuit, I was delighted,” Booth told TODAY. “I felt like the rule was unfair to girls all along. When my daughter…found out she had to wear skirts the first day of kindergarten, she cried.”

Booth’s daughter is now in seventh grade and just a little over a year away from graduating. She has followed the dress code all these years despite feeling her movements are restricted and feeling uncomfortable in cold weather. “It’s impractical to wear a skirt,” Booth said. “They can’t run, they can’t play, they can’t flip upside down. The clothing is simply not as durable. They’re told that they can wear leggings, and any woman who has ever worn leggings can tell you leggings are not pants. When it’s 14 degrees in the morning in January…they’re not pants. They’re not.”

According to an email from Baker Mitchell, founder of the Roger Bacon Academy, the organization that runs Charter Day School, the reason for the policy is to prevent bullying and harassment. Bonnie Peltier, who is also involved in the lawsuit, was sent this email in 2015.

“Bullying and sexual harassment are current topics of concern almost everywhere we look,” Mitchell wrote. “Teen pregnancies and casual sex receive concerned attention in most communities. Thus, the uniform policy seeks to establish an environment in which our young men and women treat one another with mutual respect.”

Photo: Pexels

George Fletcher, a lawyer representing the school, wrote in a 2015 letter available on the school’s website, “If Ms. Peltier would like her daughter to be able to wear pants or shorts to school, she is free to send her daughter to a non-charter public school.” Of course, as Booth explains, changing schools isn’t so simple and she enrolled her daughter there because of the educational benefits that aren’t available elsewhere.

Regardless, the school should follow the law and according to the attorney representing the parents, it is not. “The fact that this is a school of choice does not exempt the school from complying with civil rights laws,” Galen Sherwin, an ACLU attorney who is involved in the case told TODAY.

“If it did, then there would be no force to any of our civil rights laws. Certainly at the college level, it’s always voluntary. Students can go anywhere. So, the fact that you can choose which school you attend does not mean that the school isn’t required to comply with the constitution or Title IX.”

Now both sides must wait to have their day in court. For Booth’s daughter, however, no matter what the outcome is, she probably won’t benefit from it, since her graduation is rapidly approaching.

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“(My daughter) is now actually quite invested in the outcome of this. She understands what is at stake and what it really means, and that she may not benefit directly personally by this, but all of the girls after her will,” Booth explained. “When you’re fighting for your rights, it’s a long game. It’s not short. It’s not easy. It’s persistence that makes this happen…and she understands that.”

—Shahrzad Warkentin

 

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