It doesn’t take long for Keely Burks to decide what to wear to school each morning. That’s because at the Charter Day School in Leland, N.C., where Burks is an eighth-grader, girls only have very limited options when it comes to their daily uniform: a dress or skirt. Yep, female students are forbidden from wearing pants to school—and now they’re suing the Brunswick County public school because of it.
Three parents have filed a lawsuit against Charter Day School, claiming that the antiquated dress code requirements are sexual discrimination under Title IX. Currently, the school handbook requires that girls wear skirts, skorts or jumpers that are at least knee-length.
Many parents claim that not only is it a matter of principle, it’s also a matter of practicality. “There are a lot of situations—whether it’s playing outside, sitting on the floor, or trying to stay warm in the cold—where wearing a skirt makes my daughter uncomfortable and distracts her from learning,” argued mom Bonnie Peltier.
Erika Booth, whose daughter also attends Charter Day School agrees, saying “I think it teaches girls they’re second-class citizens. They take second place to the boys. And it’s not right.”
So far, however, the school shows no sign of backing down, even two years later (the suit started back in 2016). In a letter to the ACLU, the school’s attorney, George Fletcher wrote, “The uniform policy is constitutionally and statutorily permissible and does not violate CDS students’ rights in any manner.”
But the students—along with their outraged parents—aren’t going to go down without a fight. “I don’t think anyone should have a problem with young women wearing pants. There are so many professional women — business women, doctors, and world leaders — who wear pants every day,” Burke wrote. “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.”