A North Carolina charter school is under legal fire from local parents who find fault in a dress code that prevents female students from wearing pants. Parents have sued the Charter Day School in Leland for discriminating against their daughters.
The day school’s uniform policy requires that girls wear skirts, jumpers or “skorts.” Though there are a few exceptions, like gym class or “special circumstances,” the policy is pretty clear that girls must stick to the aforementioned items while boys can wear either shorts or pants.
Parents are understandably upset over these restrictions. Even in many private schools that require uniforms, female students are able to wear pants as long as the pants are in line with the school’s style.
The Charter Day School’s policy has many problems. The ACLU, which filed the lawsuit for the parents, notes that the dress code policy “treats girls differently than boys and causes them to suffer a burden that boys do not suffer.”
So what is that burden? It’s simple. That burden occurs when it’s winter and girls are forced to wear skirts or dresses. Even with tights, they can’t compete with the warmth and comfort of pants. That burden worsens during recess, when the girls have to decide whether hanging out on the monkey bars or running as fast as they possibly can across the field is worth having their underwear exposed.
The day school, which was founded in 1999, is owned and operated by the Roger Bacon Academy, a private school. As part of the lawsuit, the ACLU also included an email from Roger Bacon Academy founder Baker Mitchell, who writes that the skirt requirement is an essential part of creating “a school environment that embodied traditional values” and “to preserve chivalry and respect among young women and men in this school of choice.”
You know what’s actually chivalrous? Allowing a young lady to wear what she would like within certain guidelines. Nobody is asking for these female students to wear ripped jeans or sweatpants. Instead, they’re asking to be treated equally and to be provided the option of wearing uniform pants.
“Traditional values” is also code for outdated and stereotypical values. It sounds like, by forcing skirts or jumpers on these girls, the school is also forcing certain ideas about what it means to be a woman. And while presenting as feminine isn’t inherently a bad thing at all, it can be stifling and can lead to other tired notions regarding these stereotypes, like women belonging in the home and not the workforce.
The issue isn’t the dress code exactly.
Uniforms can be great options for schools for a variety of reasons. But it comes down to equality and fairness. Unfortunately, Charter Day School is not offering the same options all around, which has a negative impact on its female students. Hopefully this lawsuit rights things and sends a message that “traditional” doesn’t always mean “best.”