A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that a North Carolina charter school's requirement for girls to wear skirts based on the idea they are "fragile vessels" deserving of "gentle" treatment from boys was unconstitutional.
Senior Circuit Judge Barbara Milano Keenan wrote in her opinion that the dress code at Charter Day School in Leland, North Carolina, can no longer be enforced. The school's founder, businessman Baker Mitchell's claim that the uniforms promoted chivalry "based on the view that girls are 'fragile vessels' deserving of 'gentle' treatment by boys" was determined, in a 10-to-6 majority ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, to be discriminating against female students.
"It is difficult to imagine a clearer example of a rationale based on impermissible gender stereotypes," Keenan wrote in her opinion.
"By implementing the skirts requirement based on blatant gender stereotypes about the 'proper place' for girls and women in society, [the school] has acted in clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause," she added.
Under Title IX, federal law prohibits sex discrimination in federally-funded education.
According to the New York Post, Galen Sherwin, the students' lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the ruling "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."
But Aaron Streett, the school's attorney, said the ruling was "mistaken and harmful" because it conflicted with a U.S. Supreme Court precedent and would limit "the ability of parents to choose the best education for their children."
All six dissenting votes came from Republican-appointed judges.
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