Justice Department Urges Supreme Court to Reject Argument Exempting Public Charter School from Civil Rights Laws

May 23, 2023 9:54 am

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WASHINGTON - The Solicitor General of the United States rejected arguments made by a North Carolina public charter school suggesting their skirts-only dress code for girls should be exempted from civil rights laws.

Following a federal Court of Appeals decision last year in favor of parents and students challenging the skirts-only dress code at Charter Day School in North Carolina, in September 2022, the school asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case arguing it is not a “state actor” and therefore need not respect students’ constitutional rights. In January 2023, the Supreme Court invited the U.S. Solicitor General to express the views of the United States.

In a brief filed yesterday, the Solicitor General rejected the school’s claim that public charter schools in North Carolina are not “state actors” and therefore may violate students’ constitutional rights with impunity. “Eliminating unconstitutional discrimination – whether based on sex, race, religion, or other grounds – ensures that all students have the opportunity to benefit from the ‘diverse pedagogical approaches’ charter schools can offer,” reads the brief.

“We’re pleased the Justice Department again recognized what we know to be true: Public charter schools in North Carolina are public schools,” said Ria Tabacco Mar, Director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “Girls who attend Charter Day School have the same constitutional rights as their peers at other public schools — including the freedom to wear pants. There is no reason to disturb the public status of charter schools in North Carolina or to strip thousands of North Carolina students of their constitutional rights.”

Girls at Charter Day School and their parents challenged the skirts requirement in 2019 as sex discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and Title IX. They are represented by the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, the ACLU of North Carolina, and the law firm Ellis & Winters LLP.

Peltier v. Charter Day School is a part of the ACLU's Joan and Irwin Jacobs Supreme Court Docket.

For more on Peltier v. Charter Day School, click here: https://www.aclu.org/cases/peltier-v-charter-day-school

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