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North Carolina: Judge Rules Charter School Requirement of Skirts for Girls Is Discriminatory

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A federal judge ruled that Charter Day School’s dress code–which requires girls to wear skirts and does not permit them to wear trousers or shorts–is unconstitutional.

“Yes, the boys at the school must conform to a uniform policy as well,” Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard wrote. “But plaintiffs in this case have shown that the girls are subject to a specific clothing requirement that renders them unable to play as freely during recess, requires them to sit in an uncomfortable manner in the classroom, causes them to be overly focused on how they are sitting, distracts them from learning, and subjects them to cold temperatures on their legs … .”

Also, the judge ruled that the organization that holds the charter for the Charter Day School, a K-8 school in Leland, N.C., acted under state authority, or “color of state law,” when it incorporated its disparate dress code into its disciplinary code.

“In this matter, CDS, Inc. has brought the uniform policy under extensive regulation of the state by making violations of the uniform policy a disciplinary violation,” the judge said.

Howard went on to rule that the manager of Charter Day School, an entity known as Roger Bacon Academy Inc., was not a state actor because it does not contract with or received funding directly from the state and had no power to change the dress code, which was set by the CDS board.

CDS is a “traditional values” themed school and the school’s founder, Baker Mitchell, has asserted that the dress code requirement that girls wear skirts was part of a climate of “chivalry” and “mutual respect.”

Too bad that Education Week did not delve deeper into the management company of this charter school. Roger Bacon Academy operates the charter school. RBA is a for-profit corporation owned by Baker Mitchell and is a favorite of the Koch brothers. Marian Wang of ProPublica investigated RBA in 2014 and reported that it was making millions for Mr. Mitchell, a politically-connected businessman with deeply libertarian views.

Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four nonprofit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.

How Public Dollars for Charters Flow to For-Profit Companies

Over six years, Mitchell’s two companies have taken in close to $20 million in fees and rent — some of the schools’ biggest expenses. That’s from audited financial statements for just two schools. Mitchell has recently opened two more.

The schools buy or lease nearly everything from companies owned by Mitchell. Their desks. Their computers. The training they provide to teachers. Most of the land and buildings. Unlike with traditional school districts, at Mitchell’s charter schools there’s no competitive bidding. No evidence of haggling over rent or contracts.

The schools have all hired the same for-profit management company to run their day-to-day operations. The company, Roger Bacon Academy, is owned by Mitchell. It functions as the schools’ administrative arm, taking the lead in hiring and firing school staff. It handles most of the bookkeeping. The treasurer of the nonprofit that controls the four schools is also the chief financial officer of Mitchell’s management company. The two organizations even share a bank account.

Mitchell’s management company was chosen by the schools’ nonprofit board, which Mitchell was on at the time — an arrangement that is illegal in many other states.

Hello, Education Week! How about reporting on Baker Mitchell’s charter chain and its outlandish profits?



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