United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
BONNIE PELTIER, as Guardian of A.P., a minor child; ERIKA BOOTH, as Guardian of I.B., a minor child; and PATRICIA BROWN, as Guardian of K.B., a minor child; Plaintiffs,
CHARTER DAY SCHOOL, INC., ROBERT P. SPENCER, CHAD ADAMS, SUZANNE WEST, COLLEEN COMBS, TED BODENSCHATZ, and MELISSA GOTT in their capacities as members of the Board of Trustees of Charter Day School, Inc., and THE ROGER BACON ACADEMY, INC., Defendants.
Malcolm J. Howard, Senior United States District Judge
matter is before the court on defendants' motion to
dismiss all claims against them for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiffs have responded,
and defendants have replied. This matter is ripe for
bring suit on behalf of three minor children, all of whom are
students at Charter Day School (the "school") in
kindergarten, fourth and eighth Graders respectively. Charter
Day School is a co-educational charter school in Brunswick
County, North Carolina. The uniform policy or dress code of
the school requires girls to wear skirts, skorts or jumpers
and boys to wear either pants or shorts. All students are
required to wear gym uniforms for gym class. Failure to
comply with the policy results in disciplinary measures.
bring this action challenging the fact that girls are not
allowed to wear shorts or pants because -they are girls.
Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief, along with
nominal damages and attorney fees under Title IX and the
North Carolina and United States Constitutions. They also
assert defendants Charter Day School, Inc. ("CDS")
and The Roger Bacon Academy, Inc. ("RBA") are in
breach of contracts, of which plaintiffs are third-party
do not challenge the school's authority to impose a
uniform policy or argue that uniform policies in general are
unlawful. Rather, here, plaintiffs challenge the specific
sex-based requirement that girls must wear skirts, skorts or
jumpers and are not allowed to wear pants or shorts.
Plaintiffs allege this requirement subjects them to archaic
sex stereotypes about what constitutes appropriate behavior
and conduct for girls, reinforcing the notion that girls, but
not boys, must dress and behave modestly, that they are
less' physically active than boys and that they should
behave and dress in a manner that is otherwise traditionally
considered appropriately feminine. As a result, they have
refrained or been prevented from engaging in certain physical
activities, including climbing gym structures, sliding on a
slide, swinging from monkey bars, and doing cartwheels. They
claim these requirements burden them with restrictions on
their comfort, warmth, and freedom of movement that the boys
do not suffer and therefore the policy constitutes unlawful
sex discrimination. Defendants have moved to dismiss
plaintiffs' claims. Appropriate responses and replies
have been filed, and this matter is ripe for adjudication.
Standard of Review
federal district court confronted with a motion to dismiss
for failure to state a claim should view the allegations of
the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
See Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th
Cir. 1997). The intent of Rule 12(b) (6) is to test the
sufficiency of a complaint. Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). A Rule
12(b) (6) motion '"does not resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses.'" Id. (quoting
Republican Party v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th
Cir. 1992)). "[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately,
it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent
with the allegations in the complaint." Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 (2007).
complaint need not 'make' a case' against a
defendant or 'forecast evidence sufficient to prove an
element' of the claim." Chao v. Rivendell Woods,
Inc., 415 F.3d 342, 349 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Iodice v. United States, 289 F.3d 270, 281 (4th Cir.
2002)). Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
provides "for simplicity in pleading that intends to
give little more than notice to the defendant of the
plaintiff s claims and that defers until after discovery any
challenge to those claims insofar as they rely on
facts." Teachers' Ret. Sys. of La. v.
Hunter, 477 F.3d 162, 170 (4th Cir. 2007). A complaint
is generally sufficient if its "'allegations are
detailed and informative enough to enable the defendant to
respond.'" Chao, 415 F.3d at 349 (quoting 5
Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal
Practice and Procedure, § 1215 at 193 (3d ed.
2004)). Thus, a complaint satisfies the Rules if it gives
"fair notice" of the claim and "the grounds
upon which it rests." Twombly, 550 U.S. at
554-55 (internal quotation marks omitted).
Equal Protection Claims
move to dismiss plaintiffs' claims under the Equal
Protection Clause ("EPC") of the United States
Constitution. "The equal protection clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment protects individuals against
intentional, arbitrary-discrimination by government
officials." Hayden ex rel. A.H. v. Greensburg Cmty.
Sch. Corp., 743 F.3d 569, 577 (7th Cir. 2014)(quoting
Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564,
120 S.Ct. 1073, 1074-75, 145 L.Ed.2d 1060 (2000) (per
argue plaintiffs have not alleged a violation of a
constitutional right. Defendants first argue that because
plaintiffs voluntarily chose to attend the school (as it is a
charter school) and were informed of the uniform policy prior
to enrollment, they cannot now claim they have been
unlawfully discriminated against. Defendants cite no law to
support this waiver argument and do not dispute that charter
schools are statutorily-defined public schools. N.C. Gen.
Stat. § 115C-218.15; see Yarbrough v. East Wake
First Charter School, 108 F.Supp.3d 331, 337 (E.D. N.C.
2015). Additionally, they argue the alleged harms are
"self-imposed" and can be prevented by wearing a
skort or wearing leggings under a skirt or jumper, both
allowed by the uniform policy. Defendants cite no legal
authority to support this argument either, and the court
finds this argument is, in reality, a factual contention more
appropriate for consideration at a later stage of litigation.
Whether plaintiffs' evidence can prove the harms alleged
is not at issue on the motion to dismiss.
defendants argue the uniform policy is not based on
impermissible sex stereotypes, referencing the written
purpose of the uniform policy in the CDS Handbook. In this
section of their brief, defendants note that North Carolina
allows charter schools to operate single-sex educational
facilities. Noting this statute, defendants argue that
because plaintiffs' alleged harms would fail as a -matter
of law at a single-sex school, they automatically fail here.
Once again, defendants cite no case law to support this
argument, and the court finds this argument to be irrelevant
to whether 'plaintiffs have alleged a claim sufficient to
survive a motion to dismiss. "Whether and when the
adoption of differential grooming standards for males and
females amounts to sex ...