Victory: On June 14, 2022, the en banc Fourth Circuit upheld the district court’s decision that North Carolina charter schools are state actors, and that the discriminatory dress code violates the Equal Protection Clause because it was based on impermissible sex stereotypes. The court also held that Title IX applies to dress codes, reversing the district court’s dismissal of the students’ Title IX claim and remanding for further proceedings. 


On July 13th, 2020 the National Women’s Law Center, along with our law firm partner Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, filed an amicus brief to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, on behalf of 56 additional organizations, in support of three students represented by the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. The students are challenging whether the school dress code policy, which requires all girls to wear skirts, “skorts,” or “jumpers” to school, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the North Carolina state constitution, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, and North Carolina state law.

NWLC’s brief supports the students’ Title IX challenge, specifically arguing that the legislative and regulatory enforcement history of Title IX establishes that its prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses the “skirts requirement” of the dress code policy that is at issue in this case.  We also argue that, as a policy matter, the school dress code policy promotes harmful polices that violate Title IX, including the false notions that girls should be passive, and conform to specific sex stereotypes. We also include the ways that this policy can be particularly harmful for Black, Indigenous, and Latina girls; for some girls with disabilities; as well as for gender non-binary and nonconforming students. Additionally, the brief highlights how policies steeped in stereotypical gender norms, like the “skirts requirement,” also creates harm for girls and boys who are transgender.

See our more on this case on our blog here.