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Peter Greene writes about a charter school in North Carolina that had a strict dress code for female students. Parents sued to overturn the rule as a violation of Title IX. They won. But then a federal appeals court reversed the ruling. The judges reasoned that charter schools are not public schools and not subject to the same laws as public schools.
In North Carolina, Charter Day School back in 2016 was sued by parents who objected to a dress code requiring girls to wear skirts, jumpers, or skorts. They just won that suit, sort of, but revealed something about themselves in the winning.
This is a school whose mission involves communicating through the arts and sciences. Charter Day School is part of the network of charters operated by Roger Bacon Academy, one of the charters that focuses on a “classical curriculum” in a “safe, morally strong environment,” which meant, apparently, none of those pants-wearing girls in their school (It also supposedly means things like sentence diagramming in Kindergarten and Latin in 4th grade, but then, Baker is an electrical engineer, not an educator.)You’re in trouble now, missy.
RBA is owned and operated by Baker Mitchell, Jr., and if that name seems vaguely familiar, it’s because he is one of the titans of charter profiteering. Back in 2014, Marian Wang profiled the “politically-connected businessman who celebrates the power of the free market,” and how he perfected the business of starting nonprofit charter schools and then having those schools lease their buildings, equipment, programs, etc from for-profit companies owned and operated by Baker Mitchell, Jr. That’s where the Roger Bacon Academy, a for-profit charter management company comes in.
In 2019, a federal judge passed down the ruling that any public school in the country would have expected– a dress code requiring skirts for girls is unconstitutional. The school quietly retired the item in the dress code.
But that wasn’t the end of it. Monday (Aug 9) a federal appeals court tossed out the 2019 ruling–sort of– in a 2-1 ruling.
The two judges, both Trump appointees, ruled that contrary to the assertion of the lower court, that charter schools should not be considered state actors, and are therefore not subject to the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. This is yet another way for the courts to work their way around to declaring that charter schools are free to discriminate in any ways they wish. But it also makes one thing perfectly clear–
Charter schools are not public schools. They are not state actors.