My School Requires All Girls to Wear Skirts. I’m Fighting for My Right to Wear Pants.

(Photo: NEFATRON/Flickr)

This post originally appeared on the ACLU of North Carolina's blog

I am like a lot of eighth grade students. I try to do my best in class. I like sports and playing outside, and I regularly go to Bible classes. I also believe in standing up for myself and others. So last year, along with some friends, I created a petition to ask my school to change its policy that says girls have to wear skirts to school or risk being punished.

I go to Charter Day School, a K-8 public charter school in Leland, North Carolina. Like a lot of schools, Charter Day has a uniform policy. That policy says that all female students have to wear skirts that are “knee-length or longer” and that we can’t wear pants or shorts, except on gym days. Boys are able to wear pants and shorts every day. My friends and I got more than 100 signatures on our petition, but it was taken from us by a teacher and we never got it back. Some parents asked about changing the policy, but the school said that making girls wear skirts is supposed to promote “chivalry” and “traditional values.”   

Now we are turning to the ACLU for help. This week the ACLU of North Carolina and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project filed a lawsuit on behalf of me and two other students that says Charter Day’s uniform policy violates the law and discriminates against girls.   

Keely Burks

Personally, I hate wearing skirts. Even with tights and leggings, skirts are cold to wear in the winter, and they’re not as comfortable as shorts in the summer. I love playing outside, especially soccer and gymnastics. When we go outside for recess, the boys in my class will sometimes play soccer or do flips and cartwheels. But I feel like I can’t because I’m wearing a skirt.

And it’s not just when I go outside. When I’m sitting in class, I have to pay attention to the position of my legs when I’m in a skirt, and it can be very distracting and uncomfortable. When I was in first grade and we sat on the floor, my teacher told all the girls that we couldn’t sit “criss-cross applesauce” like the boys in class. Instead, the teacher said we had to sit on the floor with our legs curled to the side because we were in skirts. When I said I didn’t want to sit that way, my teacher took me aside and put me in time out.

And I was even punished on the last day of school one year for wearing shorts when I mistakenly thought it was permitted. I had to sit in the office all day and wasn’t allowed to go back to class until my mom could come pick me up — all because I wasn’t wearing a skirt. 

In the year 2016, I don’t think anyone should have a problem with young women wearing pants. There are so many professional women — businesswomen, doctors, and world leaders — who wear pants every day.  If I had the choice, I would wear pants or shorts to school every day. Some of my classmates would probably still want to wear skirts — but that should be their decision, not the school’s. Either way, we should have a choice.

I hope that by challenging my school’s policy, I can help other girls who want to go to school without being stereotyped or who just want to play outside or sit in class without feeling uncomfortable.

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I'm not an attorney. However if this school is publicly funded the sort of discrimination you face might be illegal. In a private school maybe not.

I'm with you and think this is very unfair. Likewise, as long as it's an approved uniform, a boy should be permitted to wear a skirt. Assigning one sex or the other to skirts or trousers is discriminatory.


. I'm a Headmaster at an All Male Boarding School in New England and Schools have the right to implement any dress code as they feel is best for their School.My School has ultra rigorous academic requirements which cause Students to completely focus on the task in hand. Our Dress Code is simple but strict and in fact we have the longest dress code hours period.
Our dress code is Black dress shoes, black socks, White button down dress shirt,solid black tie, and a full Black Suit. During the fall and winter months a full length black overcoat is also required.proper dress requires and Overcoat to be worn over a suit jacket only and most be the same color as the suit jacket.our dress code includes weekends We do not adjust or change any part of our dress code due to weather situations and it's strictly enforced with writing up all violators and delivering harsh and tough consequences .We have few discipline problems and a very high academic performance and that's to the fact of a no nonsense approach and our graduates are very successful when they graduate. Pandering to the complainers does no good it makes them weak and ineffective they need to respect authority and not question but to follow.I'm fortunate complainers and whiners don't last long with us as and that's fine with me as I don't want lazy, unmotivated and disrespectful students prevent progress.

Jami L

I just read "the Headmaster's" comment. Wow! Nice to know his school is churning out a bunch of followers and no leaders, free thinkers and innovators. Public schools such as this young lady attends cannot discriminate based on gender and their dress code is doing so.


A private school can create random and discriminatory policies. A public one cannot.


I read the headmaster's comment about his boarding school. If I had a son and if he was punished for one simple unfair violation, that headmaster would end up in the hospital!


Thay can do what you wany so lat them take cous war gonna be some day some day


Then why not go to North Brunswick High School?


Good for you, Keely. Keep up with your fight.


So you personally feel the need to rebel against a simple school rule that is not asking a lot from you and wishes to make your group seem organized and professional. I am asked to wear a suit to work all the time but I don't ever run around in my Hawaii Shirt and Cargo Shorts. Please try not to make a big deal of this.


Try wearing a skirt suit (in the privacy of your own home) and imagine being forced to spend the day that way, or imagine how wearing a shirt at the office would force you to change your entire demeanor. Think about how you sit and if it would be considered "appropriate" for a work environment. Try bending over to pick up a pencil. Try taking a large stride. Now try doing it all in nylons and high heels as well. Office skirts are actually even worse in most cases because they are pencil thin and above the knee. A dress code can be reasonable, but gendered clothing really is not.


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