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Title IX and Dress Codes

Group of students wearing school uniforms

With the new school year fully underway, some schools face pushback from students and parents about dress codes. In particular, in August 2021, a federal appeals court ruled that a North Carolina charter school could not require girls to wear skirts because it violated Title IX.

The case related to Charter Day School, a public charter school, that had dress code requirements specified for boys and girls. That dress code required all students to wear a navy or white top. Boys were required to wear blue or khaki shorts or pants with a belt while girls were required to wear skorts, skirts, or jumpers. Girls were only permitted to wear shorts or sweatpants if they had a gym class or for a special event authorized by the school. Officials with the school had said that their purpose behind the differences was to emphasize that girls needed to be respected.

The Case

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of North Carolina and the law firm Ellis & Winters LLP were the first to challenge the school’s dress code requirement for girls on behalf of three students at the school. The case was initially filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. That court ruled that Title IX did not apply to the school’s sex-specific dress codes.

The case was then taken to the Fourth Circuit court which reversed that decision. The judges said that while a charter school is similar to a private school in many ways, it’s still considered a public institution and traditional public schools rules have to be followed. The court also told the lower court that they needed to reconsider their initial ruling.

What This Means For Students

If a charter school is enforcing a dress code that is discriminatory, it could mean that it is a Title IX violation. That’s why having an experienced Title IX attorney to consult should be your first step.

At The Law Offices of Jed Silverman our lawyers are always informed about the latest Title IX rulings and what it means for students. Don’t try taking on a Title IX case without the right attorney helping you — contact the team at The Law Offices of Jed Silverman and get started with a free consultation.

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