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Women`s Issues/Girls required to wear skirts in public school


QUESTION: I just recently moved so that my children can attend a charter school.  I understood prior to enrolling them that they had a uniform policy.  When I got the printout outlining what clothing they have to wear I was shocked to find out girls are not permitted to wear pants.  I then found out that even the female teachers at the school are required to wear skirts are dresses.  I get the premise behind the uniforms although I don't necessarily agree with it but what can possibly be the reasoning behind not allowing pants on girls and is that even legal to require?  What happens in winter?  Tights can only do so much and we all know that wearing a dress on a cold day feels a lot colder then wearing pants. Can a public charter school mandate that girls have to wear skirts?  It seems discriminatory that they can not wear the same clothing as their male counterparts.

ANSWER: Dear Bonnie:

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits gender discrimination in schools that receive federal money.  You refer to this school as a public school. I assume this means it receives federal money but do you have any way of determining that?

If it does get federal money (money from the state or county would also qualify, I believe, as they may get federal money), this would appear to be a violation of Title IX.

l am not as familiar with Title IX, which governs schools, as I am with Title VII, which prohibits gender discrimination in employment, but I have a friend who is. I also have not run across this particular issue before and have not researched this particular issue as yet as I wanted to get back to you.  I will email my friend who is a Title IX expert, seek her advice, and get back to you.


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QUESTION: Thank you so much!  It is definitely a public school that gets federal money because one of them recently got in trouble for failing to report on it's finances or something and it was all over the paper that charter schools are required to report all spending because they receive federal funds and are considered public in nature.  I just want to know where I stand before school starts on July 20th.  The fact that even teachers are forced to dress in skirts seems so.....1950's for lack of a better way to describe it.  Backwards.  Boys also are required to wear the school uniform colors of khaki and navy blue but they are permitted to wear pants or shorts.  I believe girls can not even wear shorts they can only wear skorts but I'm not positive about that.  I know on the acceptable clothing list it mentions pants or shorts for boys but no mention of them for girls.  When I asked what would happen if she showed up in pants I was told they would call me to bring her a skirt or put her in one that they keep on hand for such occasions.  They keep a supply of extra skirts on hand in case they feel a skirt is too short because as of yet no one has dared wear pants.

ANSWER: Bonnie:

My friend answered and said that retaliation is prohibited under Title IX--but I'm adding that while it is prohibited, that doesn't stop the school from retaliating and you could file a complaint about it and it could take years to resolve.

My friend did not answer my substantive questions, but referred me to someone else and 'm about to email her or ask my friend for her email.



I'm late for a morning appointment and must run. You stated that teachers are covered by this discriminatory dress code, too. Are they represented by a teachers union?  If you, you might want to bring this to the attention of the union and ask them to take it up with the school.  But please keep in mind if you take any action, it will come to the attention of the school and it may retaliate, even if such retaliation may be unlawful.

But perhaps best to wait till I hear back from my friend.



Thanks for the additional information.

I emailed my friend who is an expert on Title IX, although she is not a lawyer, as I am.

I will now send her the additional information in this latest email of yours and get back to you after I hear from her.  By the way, where is this school located?

One thing that occurred to me, if my friend responds and says that it is a possible Title IX violation, is that you could speak to a representative of the school, tell them that it  appears to be a Title IX violation and ask them to change the policy.  But if you do that, even though it would be against the law, I assume, they would undoubtedly retaliate against you and your daughter.  Is there any group or organization at this school that you could discuss this with who would agree with you so that it would not be you making this complaint but a group?


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QUESTION: Sorry for the delay in responding.  I tried responding yesterday but it said you had met your maximum contacts for the day and would not allow me to send a follow up message.  I tried generating support via on online Facebook moms group and while most do not agree with the policy nobody was willing to stand up with me for fear of retaliation.  The school is so popular that students are accepted based on a lottery system so if you are lucky enough to get in nobody wants to rock the boat so to speak.  Many of the moms refuse to send their kids there just because of the uniform policy in general but those with girls stated they would not subject their girls to the blatant violation of their right to wear pants like the boys are allowed to wear.  The premise of the uniforms is to prevent students from wearing revealing clothing and to stop bullying based on clothing or prevent students feeling like others have more then they do.  I can wrap my brain around that even though I don't agree with it 100%.  I think it comes at the expense of students developing a sense of individuality.  What I can not wrap my brain around is what girls and female teachers wearing dresses everyday has to do with anything.

Dear Bonnie:

I never before heard from anyone in all the years I've been answering questions for that a max in questions had been reached. That certainly doesn't come from me.  I don't know if it's a one-time glitch or a policy of  If you're concerned about it, is there a way for you to inquire of about it?

There's nothing more I can do at this point as yesterday I wrote the woman I was referred to who deals with this issue and I must give her at least a day or two in which to respond before checking with my first friend as to what's doing with this second woman.

Sorry the moms aren't interested in making common cause with you.  Did you follow up on my suggesting you contact the teachers union if there is one representing the teachers at this  school to see if they might want to raise this issue with the school?

I asked in a prior email where this school is located but you haven't responded.


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Sonia Pressman Fuentes


I am an author, public speaker, feminist leader and lawyer. I was the first woman attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and a founder of WEAL (Women`s Equity Action League) and FEW (Federally Employed Women). I am an expert in the field of women`s rights to be free of employment discrimination based on sex.


I spent eight years as an attorney with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and worked for one year as a volunteer attorney with the Montgomery County, MD, Human Relations Commission. I have lectured all over the world and the U.S. on women's rights to be free of employment discrimination based on sex and had articles on the subject published in newspapers, magazines, and journals and on the Internet. I also spent 11 years with multinational corporations in the field of EEO and labor law.

I belong to NOW and the Veteran Feminists of America nationally and the Brandeis University National Women's Committee in Sarasota, FL. I am a member of the board of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State in Sarasota, FL.

See my Web site at for articles written by me, information on my memoir, "Eat First--You Don't Know What They'll Give You, The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter," and interviews of me.

I have an LLB from the University of Miami School of Law in Florida.

Awards and Honors
I received a superior performance award at the EEOC and was inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame, among other awards and honors.

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