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Charter School’s Dress Code Requirements May be a Violation of Federal Law

In the case of Peltier v. Charter Day School, Inc., 37 F.4th 104 (4th Cir.2022), a federal appellate court held that the charter school was a state actor and therefore violated the Equal Protection Clause when the charter school required female students to wear skirts.

In this case, the parents of several charter school students argued that the requirement that female students wear skirts based upon the view that female students are fragile vessels deserving of gentle treatment by boys was (1) sex-based discrimination contrary to the Equal Protection Clause and (2) denied female students the full benefits of their education in violation of Title IX. In response, the charter school argued that (1) it is not a state actor, but rather a private entity fulfilling a contract with the state, and therefore cannot be sued under the Equal Protection Clause and (2) because Title IX does not explicitly refer to dress codes, the Court should defer to Department of Education’s earlier rescindment of a regulation that governed dress codes in educational institutions that receive federal funding. The federal appellate court agreed with the parents.

In support of its decision in favor of the parents on the Equal Protection Clause claim, the federal appellate court explained that the charter school was a state actor due to the charter school exercising power that was made possible only because of state law.

In support of its decision in favor of the parents on the Title IX claim, the federal appellate court explained that Congress’s decision not to list any discriminatory practices suggests that dress code policies are not beyond the reach of the statute.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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