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Philly Area Schools Prepare to Test Students for COVID-19

With an eye toward returning to in-person learning, several school districts in the Southeastern PA/ Philadelphia area have begun, or are looking to begin, voluntary, routine testing of all students and faculty for the COVID-19 virus. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), in connection with local health departments, have been working on a program known as “ACE-IT” (Assisting Childhood Education through Increased Testing) which will enable local area school districts to perform weekly COVID-19 testing of staff and students. The hope is that by conducting these tests, the program can help provide a safer environment for students and teachers to return to the classroom, which many have argued is a more effective teaching environment than virtual teaching.

What are Some of the Schools Participating?

The Lower Merion and North Penn school districts in Montgomery County, as well as the Delaware County Intermediate Unit, have been some of the first school districts to participate in the testing program, which is modeled after a similar public health initiative launched in Texas back in the fall.

North Penn volunteered to participate in the CHOP program and has been successfully running the pilot testing program for its teachers and staff since last month. Lower Merion has been doing “hybrid” instruction and is currently (as of February 9, 2021) testing about 1,000 staff members and students a week through the ACE-IT assurance testing program.

Meanwhile, Mastery Schools, a network of charter schools in Philadelphia and Camden, is also readying a program in partnership with the Broad Institute, that will enable it to weekly test its more than 14,000 teachers, staff, and students. The schools have been operating virtually, but plan to re-open with the weekly testing in place in March. The testing will be free, will require parental consent, and families can opt-in or out from being tested.

How Will These Tests Help Students get Back in the Classroom?

Since many schools opened around the country, none have reported any major outbreaks of the virus. Furthermore, there is evidence which suggests that schools have not typically been a significant source of COVID-19 spread. However, as schools open, there have been staffing issues as some teachers and others have been exposed to COVID-19 and forced to quarantine themselves, leaving schools to scramble with limited staff. The desire is that by implementing weekly testing, a certain level of comfort and confidence that in-person school is safe to attend will be provided by reducing opportunities for transmission, as well as allow schools to “catch” those positive with the COVID-19 virus but who are asymptomatic sooner rather than later.

According to the CDC, screening testing is particularly valuable in areas with moderate, substantial, and high levels of community transmission. Some schools may consider using pooled testing as a screening testing strategy for students. Pooled testing involves mixing several samples from different individuals together in a “batch” or pooled sample, then testing the pooled sample with a diagnostic test. If this test comes back positive, then the individuals in the pool are tested separately. This approach can increase the number of individuals that can be tested while reducing the need for testing resources. The ACE-IT program plans to utilize both routine assurance testing and rapid COVID-19 testing for those students and staff who begin to show or feel symptoms of COVID-19 during the school day.

How Much Will These Tests Cost?

For now, the CHOP plan is to provide various districts with the tests at no cost to those individual districts. According to their website, Mastery Schools will provide the testing for free, and will not bill insurance nor seek payment for the testing. CHOP is hopeful that as its pilot program continues to be successful, it will be able to expand upon it, with the goal of developing a model that others can use and incorporate into schools who are eager to give students, parents, and teachers some reassurance as they head back to the classroom.

If you are a charter school and require legal assistance, contact the legal team at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser today. Call us at 484-318-7106 or contact us online to get started. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout the Philadelphia area, Chester County, and New Jersey.

What is the Impact of COVID-19 Regulations on Charter Schools?

Charter schools are unique in their independence and operation. Due to their relative independence, they do not have to meet the strict demands of the bureaucracy of the public-school district. They can offer more flexibility in their curriculum, school hours, school calendar, learning methods, and technology offerings. When the pandemic hit, charter schools were able to pivot to online learning and meet the needs of their student population more rapidly. Charter schools are providing students and families with stability and continuity of education which are essential in this new coronavirus landscape.

Charter schools were able to move online learning relatively quickly, use creative solutions to meet technological needs, and provide meals to their student population. Public schools struggled under pressure. Additionally, many public schools based their decision-making in part out of a fear of  lawsuits, delaying instruction.

Legislation Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The United States Congress passed laws in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to address the financial and public health needs of the country. The following laws passed in March 2020 to offer relief to individuals and businesses, as well as state and local governments affected by the health crisis:

  • The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act: Provided funds for research, equipment stockpiles, vaccine development, and state and local health budgets.
  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA): Provided funding for nutritional aid, testing for COVID-19, expanded unemployment insurance, and family and sick leave benefits.
  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act: Provided emergency funding for businesses and individuals, as well as state and local governments.
  • The Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act: Provided additional funding for small businesses, hospitals, COVID-19 testing, and additional funds to extend the Paycheck Protection Program under the CARES Act.

Legislation Affecting Charter Schools Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The CARES Act particularly has implications for charter schools. Charter schools with fewer than 500 employees must comply with sick leave provisions under the FFCRA and CARES Act to qualify for refundable tax credits for providing sick leave. The CARES Act also allows charter schools to seek financial relief. Charter schools may qualify for various loans, grants, tax credits, and deferrals to utilize toward programs necessitated by the pandemic, such as continuing payroll and paying wages for their employees. As non-profit entities, they may be able to qualify for some provisions under the CARES Act or apply for small business association loans.

The CARES Act may allow charter schools to obtain waivers from the Secretary of Education on assessment, accountability, and reporting results of the assessments under the federal education law. The CARES Act also allows charter schools to obtain additional funds to use toward implementing public health and safety measures used to prevent and prepare for COVID-19 effects on the schools, as well as for costs of cleaning and mental health support. Additional funds may be accessed for programs related to child nutrition.

Navigating the CARES Act

For parents seeking an alternative to the conventional public school, charter schools offer valuable and unique learning environments. The pandemic has highlighted some of the ways the charter school system has met the new challenges due to the flexibility they enjoy. However, even though charter schools are independent from public school districts, they are presented with unique legal challenges. Charter schools now have to respond to the different laws, regulations, and needs created by the pandemic.

The legal team at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser offer comprehensive legal representation to charter schools in the Philadelphia region. Pennsylvania education law can be complicated, and the additional regulations passed by Congress recently create additional challenges. Our attorneys can guide you through all the legal resources available to ensure that you continue to provide quality education to your constituents. For additional information, contact us online or call 484-318-7106. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Chester County, and New Jersey.

Importance of School Reopening Plans During COVID-19 Pandemic

The fluctuating coronavirus infection rates are causing great uncertainty in upcoming school reopening plans. Many areas of the country are seeing resurgence in infection rates, leading schools to announce a full online model. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all policy considerations for the upcoming school year start with a goal of having students physically present in school. They also fear that remote learning has resulted in serious emotional and health consequences for children.

As of now, the plans in Pennsylvania are varying including five days of in-person instruction, a hybrid schedule, and all online learning. Meanwhile, New Jersey schools are allowing parents to opt into full-time virtual learning. State and federal governments are not mandating that schools reopen or close fully, leaving the task of reopening in the hands of individual schools and districts. Therefore, schools have to devise plans for reopening based on their community’s unique needs and resources. Guidelines and considerations provided by back-to-school plans include the following:

Monitoring the health of students and staff. Students and staff must monitor their own health and stay home if they are sick.  Schools should set forth criteria to the families of their students and communicate regularly as additional information is acquired regarding the symptoms and effects of illness.

Practice social distancing. Schools should familiarize themselves with the options regarding social distancing recommendations and adhere to them.  If physical distancing of six feet is not plausible, schools can consider the use of plastic barriers or arranging desks to achieve maximum distance for the students and teachers.

Face coverings. Schools and teachers must have a clear message regarding the use of face coverings and (1) communicate with families about the policy, and (2) enforce the policy consistently, while (3) allowing for exceptions and alternatives where conditions or health issues require.  Acceptable face coverings can include cloth masks, face shields, and disposable masks.

Cleaning. Handrails, bathrooms, and doorknobs should be cleaned every few hours. Classrooms, hallways, and other spaces should be cleaned with spray and fog disinfectant, and hand sanitizer stations should be provided throughout the building.

Transportation. School buses should provide hand sanitizers and assigned seating that takes social distancing into account. Students and drivers must follow district guidelines regarding face coverings while on the bus.

Visitors. Visitors to the school building should be restricted to approved visitors, contractors, and delivery workers.  Individuals wishing to come to the school that are not contractors or delivery personnel must make appointments prior to their visit and it is encouraged to achieve most meetings virtually.

Infections. If a student or staff member is suspected to have an infection or tests positive, the areas where the student had contacts should be closed off for 24 hours and undergo deep cleaning. To this end, schools are encouraged to keep students in cohorts to limit interaction between students and teachers, and to monitor and control infections. If one person in a cohort tests positive, that group can be isolated, and the areas occupied by those individuals should be sanitized.

Critics of the reopening plans argue that the guidelines are broad and do not adequately safeguard staff and students from COVID-19. Also, guidelines do not address the additional costs of implementation. Many point out that certain schools lack sufficient ventilation to diminish the spread of germs and viruses.

Schools are encouraged to be adequately informed about risks, maintain open dialogue with families as information develops, and review and modify their opening plans as needed in light of developing information surrounding the COVID-19 infection.

Charter Schools

Parents who need to have their children return to school due to lack of adequate childcare and inability to provide homeschooling are increasingly looking to charter schools for solutions. These institutions may have more flexibility in devising plans that allow in-person learning and often have more experience educating students in a cyber environment if that option is chosen by families. In order to reopen, schools should ensure that buildings and facilities have best practices in place for cleaning and sanitization. Schools should create social distancing plans and reconfigure buildings to have floor markings to direct foot traffic to flow in one direction to avoid face-to-face interaction. Schools should also train staff to recognize signs of illness and develop flexible attendance and sick leave policies.

For further advice on how to plan your school reopening, contact the legal team at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser. Our attorneys provide legal counsel to schools in their daily operations, governance, and legal defense. For an initial consultation, call us at 484-318-7106 or contact us online. Our office is conveniently located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where we serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Chester County, and New Jersey.

Pennsylvania Charter School Reform

Governor Tom Wolf recently proposed significant changes to Pennsylvania’s charter school law that he alleges could save school districts several million dollars while reducing the funding provided to charter schools. The reform overhauls Pennsylvania’s rules for charter school funding and accountability. Charter schools are independent public schools funded by payments from districts based on the parents’ choice to enroll their children. Public school districts in the state have been seeing a shortfall in their budgets and allege they are due to the increase in charter school funding payments while ignoring growing line items in their budget like PSERS payments. School districts pay charter schools based on enrollment at the per student at a rate which is set based on the spending of the district and is about 75% of the money the district spends on students.

Pennsylvania has a history of school choice. Charter schools have been promoted as alternatives to public school systems. Since their introduction in the late 1990s, student enrollment in Pennsylvania charter schools has steadily increased. Approximately 143,000 students are enrolled in charter schools throughout Pennsylvania. Charter school enrollment in Pennsylvania is amongst the highest in the nation. The reform put forth will have a significant and negative impact on the following factors:

Cyber Charter Schools. Cyber charter schools run at the same rate as brick and mortar charter schools.  The Governor alleges that they do not have the additional costs of maintaining a building and the is not based on the actual cost of educating the child.  The reform proposes to set a statewide rate for what a school district will pay cyber charter schools. However, cyber charter schools do operate out of buildings within the Commonwealth and establishing a flat rate to be paid to cyber charter schools would not take into consideration all the factors that go into the education of a child in a cyber environment like providing internet access, providing equipment including computers and printers, and providing in person services where the needs of the student dictate.  While the provision of education and the mechanism of education in a cyber environment is different, the Governor’s proposal ignores many of the costs and expenses that cyber charters experience that District’s do not.

Special Education. The reform proposes that the law be modified to set different rates for special education of students based on the severity of students’ needs, as opposed to a standard rate for the wide spectrum of special needs.  The Governor’s proposal ignores the fact that the rate for special education payments to charter schools is entirely based on the district’s spending on special education of students in the district.  The implementation of a tiered rate for special education students may benefit some districts, but overall will negatively impact the provision of services to students with special needs.

Standard Application Process. The reform proposes a standard framework for charter applications, which is something that charter schools have advocated for over the last few years.

Tighten Regulations. The reform proposes to make private companies that contract with charter schools subject to state Right-to-Know laws. However, the reform fails to distinguish between service providers and would subject entities like health care companies, insurers, accounting firms, and law offices to inquiries under the Right to Know Law unless the proposed reform is modified.

The Governor is sending a harsh message to parents of students enrolled in charter schools as funding for these schools will decline sharply due and more than 143,000 students will be affected.  Districts have blamed charter schools and ignored budget drivers like retirement costs skyrocketing over the last ten years, and refused to discuss equitable funding of the education of children in Pennsylvania.

For more information on how the proposed reform will affect your school, contact the legal team at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser. Our counsel has considerable experience in representing school districts and charter schools. Contact us online or call us at 484-318-7106 for an initial consultation. We serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania from our office in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Campuses Fight Sexual Violence

An estimated one in every 10 undergraduate or graduate students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation. That is a sobering statistic and one the state of Pennsylvania is working to reduce. In January 2020, the Pennsylvania Education Department began distributing $1 million in grants among 36 different colleges and universities across the state to staff and to provide services for victims of campus rape and sexual assault.

While one in 10 students overall will potentially be raped or sexually assaulted at college, the number increases significantly when you look primarily at undergraduates. Among undergraduate students, 23.1 percent of women and 5.4 percent of men are sexually victimized on campus. What is even more concerning about these crimes is that victims are not always willing to report them. Only 20 percent of female student victims between the ages of 18 to 24 report sexual crimes to law enforcement, leaving perpetrators free to victimize others. Only one out of every six college-aged sexual assault survivors accepts help from a victim services agency.

Higher Education Programs to Help Assault Survivors

In June 2019, Pennsylvania Governor Wolf signed Act 16 into law, which requires colleges and universities to beef up their services for students who are sexually assaulted. Institutions of higher learning must meet two categories of requirements. First, every school must have an online system for students and employees to report complaints of sexual harassment and assault. An effective notification system discloses who is receiving assault complaints, how this information will be used, and where victims can go for help on campus.

Next, colleges and universities must have a clear sexual harassment and assault policy that addresses:

  • The definition of consent and the concept of incapacitation
  • Who the institution considers responsible employees that have the authority and the power to report sexual harassment
  • A distinction between a complaint of sexual misconduct and a report, and the procedures for handling each
  • The rights of both parties, including the respondent who should be notified of the alleged misconduct
  • A standard of proof by which it is determined if misconduct occurred

These new guidelines for Pennsylvania colleges and universities combined with the upwards of $1 million in grants will hopefully make significant progress in reducing the number of assaults among college-aged students, while also eliminating the stigma of reporting them.

In Pennsylvania, colleges and universities have the tools to help prevent sexual assault, raise awareness of the problem among students and staff, and encourage victims to report sexual violence. However, some victims may still feel more could have been done to prevent an assault. At MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser, our attorneys represent Pennsylvania’s institutions of higher learning battling serious claims that may damage their reputation and status in the community. To learn more about our services, call 484-318-7106 or use the online form for an initial consultation. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia and Chester County.

Judge Denies Chester Community Charter School Proposal to Take Over K-8 Schools

In the first effort of its kind in Pennsylvania, a local charter school recently announced their intention to take over all kindergarten through eighth grade (K-8) education in its local district. Currently, Chester County Charter School (CCCS) serves most elementary and middle school students in the Chester Upland School District. They asked a Delaware County judge for approval to convert all remaining schools to charter schools, a request that was denied last month.

CCCS asked the court to accept proposals to convert any K-8 schools not currently operating under the charter company. Yet, the judge said that while some charter school expansion may be necessary to fortify the financially strapped school district, he felt the CCCS petition was premature at this time. This spring, he will hear a new plan for the district’s financial recovery.

A Closer Look at Chester County Charter School

CCCS currently educates more than half of all grade-school aged children residing in the Chester Upland School District and operates the largest charter school in Pennsylvania with more than 4,300 children. After the district was unable to get out of debt, the state took over through a process called receivership. Under this system, all financial recovery efforts and leadership changes must be approved by a local judge, including adding more schools to the CCCS roster.

Opposition to the Charter School Takeover

Members of the Chester Upland Education Association and some public-school teachers were concerned a full charter school takeover would limit school choice, impacting students who may not thrive within the charter school model.

The Vice President of the CUEA works with special needs students who are not getting their needs met in CCCS. Without an alternative, she worries these children may fall through the cracks and she may have valid reasons for her concerns. According to the most recent test scores, district-run schools perform on average the same and sometimes better than charter schools.

Some parents with students in the district filed a lawsuit claiming a takeover would prevent any community input and put the students at an academic disadvantage based on the charter school test scores. Unions representing district teachers and other staff are also concerned a takeover would mean certain termination for their members. Others feel it will fix the underlying problem of inadequate funding. A financial recovery plan for the district was expected to be submitted late last month. If approved, it may delay the charter school takeover.

The education law lawyers at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser resolve complex legal matters facing today’s educators and educational institutions. We ensure schools are compliant with local, state, and federal regulations and defend them in all types of litigation. We are on top of ongoing changes in education so you can feel confident you are receiving the most effective and informed guidance for your legal issue. Call us at 484-318-7106 or contact us online for an initial consultation. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we represent clients throughout Philadelphia and Chester County.

Action on Pennsylvania Charter School Law Reform

Chester County charter school attorneys counsel school administrators on law reform.Governor Tom Wolf has announced wide ranging changes to Pennsylvania’s charter school policy, including charging charter schools for services the state provides, tightening ethics standards, and permitting school districts to limit enrollment at under-performing charter schools. The Department of Education will oversee the changes to charter regulations with the aim of increasing accountability for the schools. Wolf plans to makes the changes through executive actions. Revision of charter school law would have to be made with the support of legislative leaders.

Charter School Controversy

Charter schools are for some a much-needed alternative to traditional district-run schools. The movement has grown from some 79,000 students enrolled in Pennsylvania charters nearly a decade ago to more than 143,000 students last year in 180 independent public schools. In Philadelphia, more than one-third of city public school students attend charters. Enrollment in a charter school is free to students, but the school district is required to pay their tuition. Critics of charters see this as a drain on the public education system.

Districts must pay for both brick-and-mortar charters and cyber charter schools where students learn via computer from home. Cyber charters have performed poorly in recent studies and reform advocates want all taxpayer funded schools to have the same standards of transparency and accountability.

The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools criticized Governor Wolf for not involving the charter school community in the plans for reform and said that some of the reforms represent a “blatant attack” on charter schools. It also questioned the legality of the proposed changes and suggested that some could be in violation of the state Charter School Law.

Charter school reform has been a topic for years in the Pennsylvania legislature with four charter reform bills being passed just last year in the House. However, none have become law.

Goal and Priorities

The Governor’s announcement offered a broad proposal of “goals and priorities” but little detail about how they would be achieved. Following are some of the proposed charter reform changes from the full text released by the Governor’s office:

  • Allow school districts to limit student enrollment at charters that do not provide a high-quality, equitable education to students.
  • Require transparent charter school admission and enrollment policies that do not discriminate based on intellectual or athletic ability, race/ethnicity, gender, or disability, among other student characteristics. 
  • Hold charter schools and their operators to the same transparency standards as school districts because they are public schools and receive more than $1.8 billion in state and property tax dollars annually.

Require that charter school Board of Trustees and operating companies– like school district School Boards – are free from conflicts of interest and prohibit them from making decisions that provide a financial benefit to themselves, friends, and/or family members.

  • Require charter schools to use sound fiscal management, provide regular financial audits to state regulators, publicly bid contracts for supplies and services, use fair contracting practices, and engage their communities.
  • Establish a model state application to start a new charter school or renew an existing charter school that provides school districts with comprehensive information on how the school will be run and allow for rigorous analysis.
  • Establish a clear process that requires charters to accurately document their costs.
  • Initiate a fee-for-service model to cover the department’s costs associated with implementing the charter school law.

Chester County Charter School Attorneys at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser Advise and Counsel Charter School Administrators

If you have a question about charter school law in Pennsylvania, contact The MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser to speak to an experienced Chester County education law attorney. Call 484-318-7106 or contact us online. From our office in West Chester, we assist clients across Philadelphia, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.

FERPA and Student Privacy

West Chester education lawyers advise school administrators on student data privacy.After a five year battle, the Department of Education has ruled that it is a violation of the 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to require students and parents to supply personal identifiable information to third-party services as a condition of enrollment. Parents of a charter school student in Pennsylvania complained to the Department of Education in December of 2012 that their child’s rights to privacy had been violated by the school.

The complaint claimed that the school forced parents and students to accept third-party privacy policies as a condition of enrollment. The complaint further explained that the third-party servicers they were forced to accept allowed the student’s and parent’s personal identifiable information to be “used, reproduced, displayed, performed, adapted, modified, distributed, and promoted” in any way they wanted.

In the recent Department of Education decision, FERPA laws make it unlawful to require students and parents to use or agree to the policies of third-party services as a condition of enrollment into a school, educational training service provider, or any other educational institution. The decision of the Department of Education goes a long way in supporting the current efforts to clarify and enforce the mandates of FERPA law.

How the Recent Decision will Affect Schools

Now that the Department of Education has officially taken a stand to protect the privacy rights of students, a “FERPA Compliance Crackdown” is expected to ensure the privacy rights of students are being understood and enforced. Critics of the FERPA laws fault legislators for making the mandates of the legislation hard to interpret. Legislators and educational policymakers are working hard to interpret and confirm the stipulations of the law.

As technology is embraced and utilized by public, private, and charter schools nationwide, the need for clear policies to protect student privacy are becoming increasingly important. Students will continuously access websites and online educational programs throughout their educational journey, and parents need to feel that their child is safe from data breeches and hackers.

Educational technology companies have been profiting both financially and in their business development by misusing student data. Now that the Department of Education has taken a stand on the student’s right to privacy, more parents can feel empowered to enforce the rights afforded under the FERPA laws.

Educator Training is Vital to Student Privacy Protection

Technology has been exploding faster than many can keep up with, so the laws regarding protections for student personal identifiable information must evolve as well. Training of teachers, administrators, and staff of educational institutions is vital to protecting students from tech predators and avoiding potential liability for educational institutions.

Schools and educational institutions must develop clear and specific policies regarding student privacy. Teachers and administrators who are properly trained on how to protect student privacy will be able to empower students to actively protect their online data.

West Chester Education Lawyers at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser Advise School Administrators on Data Privacy

For information on data protection in schools, call the West Chester education lawyers at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser at 484-318-7106, or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our offices are conveniently located in West Chester, Pennsylvania and serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Chester County, and across the state.

Judge Rules on Skirt Requirement in Dress Code

West Chester education lawyers advise charter school administration on policy enforcement.A federal judge recently ruled that the dress code at a North Carolina public charter school was in violation of federal sex discrimination laws. The charter school’s dress code required girls in kindergarten through eighth grade to wear skirts throughout the school year while male students wore pants. The parents of three female students filed a sex discrimination lawsuit claiming that the skirt requirement was biased and in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws.

The lawsuit claimed that the skirt requirement caused unnecessary discomfort for the female students, limited their activity, and distracted them from their studies. Female students reported feeling self-conscious and uncomfortable while sitting at their desks, playing at recess, and engaging in other activities during the day for fear their undergarments would be exposed. The plaintiffs claimed that the skirts forced the girls to sit in uncomfortable positions and abstain from many physical activities during the day.

Skirt Requirement Found Unconstitutional

With help from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a mother of one of the female students named in the lawsuit claimed that consideration for her daughter’s comfort should be equal to that of the male students at the school. She argued that failure to provide comfortable options for female students caused her daughter to be distracted from her academic activities because of the discomfort she felt the skirt imposed.

While the charter school is funded through taxpayer dollars, they are not required to adhere to the same mandates of the public schools. Uniform requirements are part of the charter school’s focus on values and discipline; and requiring students to wear uniforms is not a violation of anti-discrimination laws. Uniforms are meant to bring pride to the school community, encourage discipline, and promote community.

In accordance with North Carolina state public school policies, punishment for not adhering to required dress codes were enforced at the charter school. The judge that ruled on the case stated that the charter school was not obligated to enforce punishment as a result of dress code violations. Doing so added to the plight of the female students that already believed they were being treated unfairly.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs asked the school to revise the dress code to include the option for girls to wear pants. Including this option would allow the girls to choose the apparel that was most comfortable for them and allowed for their freedom of movement in all activities.

Moving Forward

Officials defending the charter school’s restrictions on their dress code argue that the discipline enforced by the school uniforms support the broader goals of the school. The charter school defends its principles with academic scores far above those at the state’s public school level, however there is no indication that the skirt requirement enhances student performance.

West Chester Education Lawyers at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser Advise Charter School Administration on Policy Enforcement

For assistance in drafting and enforcing school policies and procedures, call the West Chester education lawyers at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser at 484-318-7106, or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our West Chester, Pennsylvania offices serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Chester County, and across the state.