Getting around it: US Court of Appeals rules North Carolina charter schools can’t have gender-specific dress codes

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OPINION:

In the 1950s, when television was black and white, so was the distinction between acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior, comedian Milton Berle would sometimes wear a dress in a skit, causing studio audiences to laugh their heads off. How things have changed.

A United States Court of Appeals recently ruled that chartered day schools in North Carolina cannot have dress codes based on the child’s gender because, as a “state actor,” these codes violate equal protection laws. Under the ruling, girls can no longer be required to wear dresses.


Some parents believe that charter schools are an alternative to public schools that enforce a “woke” ideology. If this court ruling stands, notes a New York Post editorial, “…it could mean, in effect, the end of charters as they exist. This provides legal justification for them to be placed under the thumb of states and city educators across the country who are eager to handcuff charters for daring to provide educational options to students who have failed in traditional public schools.

One need look no further than the long list of progressive organizations that have filed amicus briefs in response to this court ruling. These liberal groups include the National Women’s Law Center, AFSCME, American Federation of Teachers, California Women Lawyers, Coalition of Labor Union Women, Gender Justice, Southern Poverty Law Center, and National Education Association.

Baker Mitchell is the founder of Classical Charter Schools of America. In a statement on the appeals court ruling, he said: “We respectfully disagree with the majority opinion. As the six dissenting justices forcefully explain, the majority opinion contradicts Supreme Court precedent on state action, divides with all other circuits to consider the issue, and limits the ability of parents choose the best education for their children.

The last part of his statement is essential. Liberal groups that favor “choice” in abortion seem to oppose choice in education for those lucky enough to be born. Why? Because, I think, a politically and morally progressive agenda is the only way the left can hope to create a new generation of like-minded people.

This is one piece of a bigger puzzle. Once, the majority ruled with consideration of reasonable protections for minority opinions. Today, it increasingly appears that the tiniest minority, especially when it seeks to erase what were once called “traditional values”, are allowed to rule.

I have already quoted this line from the Old Testament Book of Judges for its contemporary relevance: “At that time Israel had no king. Everyone did as they pleased. Another translation says “what was right in his own eyes”. (Judges 21:25)

Can anyone tell what the new standard is and according to what? Doesn’t the word “standard” imply something that is easily measured, such as weight, inches, and gallons? Or do we have to adopt a changing standard (which in reality is no standard at all) that is as fluid as a public opinion poll. History is full of tragedies spawned by public opinion, from the burnings to the Salem witch trials, to those who misquoted Scripture in defense of slavery.

An encouraging sign bodes well for advocates of school choice. The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that public programs providing money for public school tuition cannot exclude schools solely because their teaching is based on religious beliefs. And why not, since religious taxpayers contribute to the federal treasury with non-religious ones.

As more states allow public funds to be used for parochial education, America’s last monopoly may be about to dissolve. Students will benefit. Putting their welfare first should always have been the priority and not the interests of teachers unions and progressive organizations.

• Readers can email Cal Thomas at [email protected] Look for Cal Thomas’ latest book “America’s Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires and Superpowers and the Future of the United States” (HarperCollins/Zondervan).

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