Earlier this week the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari—a writ which would allow review of a case—to a charter school appealing a lower court decision on discrimination.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a dress code issued by Charter Day School, Inc., of North Carolina, noting that requiring girls to wear skirts or dresses because of their sex is a clear-cut case of sex discrimination. The lower court’s decision noted that the reasoning presented in the dress code supported a finding of discrimination when it suggested that the requirement reminded all students that girls are “fragile vessels” who should be protected by male students under the principles of chivalry.
The school’s appeal presented a novel argument: that the discrimination should be allowable because the charter school was not a “State actor.” Rather, the school said, it was required by North Carolina State law to be registered as a business, and it argued that its contractual relationships were with parents rather than with the State. These arguments represented an attempt to expand on a Maine school voucher decision decided last year, which said that schools which received vouchers of public funds were not necessarily “deputized” by the State to provide a public education. Charter and public school advocates objected to this reasoning, saying that it threatened both school financing systems and the obligations of charters to provide services to students with disabilities, English learners, and others.
With the Court declining to hear the case, the Fourth Circuit decision will stand. However, it is likely that further legal challenges—including those surrounding a recently approved religious charter school in Oklahoma—will be presented to test the same principles in the near future.