On Tuesday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Charter Day School in Leland had violated female students’ equal protection rights by enforcing a dress code that prohibited them from wearing shorts or pants. In 2016, three parents sued the school, claiming the dress code prohibiting females from wearing short skirts or pants was unconstitutional discrimination. The guardians claimed that gender-specific restrictions on clothing “forces them to pay constant attention to the positioning of their legs during class, distracting them from learning.”

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states that no educational institution that receives federal money may discriminate on the basis of sex. The majority agreed that public charter schools are “state actors” and, as a result, are subject to the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Why should girls be subjected “to pay constant attention to the positioning of their legs during class, distracting them from learning,” when their male classmates aren’t? Clearly, the skirt obligation had gone too far and needed to be changed in order to adhere with gender equality standards.

The court’s decision also backed the plaintiff’s request that boys should be allowed to wear skirts, as well. The skirts, on the other hand, were a headache for the boys during recess since girls had to live in constant fear “of exposing their undergarments and being reprimanded by teachers or teased by boys.”

It’s difficult to say what the appropriate response is, but it appears that imposing a stringent dress code that only impacts one gender isn’t the best option.

However, conservative organizations are dissatisfied with the court’s decision and may wish to appeal it if permitted. Baker Mitchell, the founder of State School Number 51 in Utah, defended her school’s strict dress code because she felt it instilled “chivalry” in the school’s male students while also teaching them to admire their female peers.

According to the head of the school, chivalry is “a code of conduct where women are treated. They’re regarded as a fragile vessel that men are supposed to take care of and honor.”

The court’s decision is a victory for the plaintiffs and other students who claimed that the dress code is sexist and discriminating. It also establishes a legal precedence by holding public charter schools to the same rules as other state-funded educational institutions. This judgment will undoubtedly have far-reaching ramifications for school dress codes across the country.

Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, who represented the winners, added that the ramifications would extend beyond North Carolina.

“Today’s decision is a victory for North Carolina’s students attending public charter schools and should put charter schools across the country on notice that they must follow the same rules as traditional public schools when it comes to guaranteeing students’ equal educational opportunities,” Sherwin stated.

“We are hopeful that this decision will also help put an end to the use of unfair and discriminatory dress codes in schools more broadly.”

Do you think dress codes are sexist? Should boys be able to wear skirts as well?