News

Three students file court challenge to an eastern N.C. charter’s policy requiring that girls wear skirts

charterschools-300x202Three students at a Brunswick County charter school are challenging the school’s policy requiring that girls wear skirts, the ACLU of N.C. said today.

The ACLU and Raleigh firm Ellis & Winters LLP filed the case in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of N.C. Monday on behalf of three students—ages 5, 10 and 14—at Charter Day School in Leland, which is just north of Wilmington.

In the suit, the ACLU explains that the K-8 public charter school, which serves more than 900 students, also bans girls from wearing shorts or pants under its dress code. Violating the policy can result in “discipline or even expulsion,” the ACLU said.

In the lawsuit, which you can read here, the girls say “wearing skirts restricts their movement, inhibits them in school situations such as playing at recess or sitting on the floor, and causes them to feel uncomfortably cold in the winter.”

From the ACLU statement:

“There are a lot of situations – whether it’s playing outside, sitting on the floor, or trying to stay warm in the cold – where wearing a skirt makes my daughter uncomfortable and distracts her from learning,” said Bonnie Peltier, the mother of a 5-year-old Charter Day School student who is a client in the case. “I’m not against a dress code, but it’s 2016. Girls should be allowed to wear pants as part of the dress code. As a parent, nothing is more important to me than my children, and I don’t want an outdated policy to get in the way of their education.”

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News

North Carolina school to spend half-million to fix coal ash-filled playing field

1434470665-nc-handAnd in perhaps this week’s most bizarre news:

The Wilmington Star-News reported Sunday that school officials in Brunswick County, a rural county south of Wilmington, will be spending nearly a half-million dollars to clean up a middle school playing field that sits atop coal ash.

In case you’ve been living under a rock in the last two years, coal ash is an energy plant byproduct that contains potentially toxic heavy metals. Duke Energy, by law, will be required to dispose of an estimated 100 million tons of the sludge in North Carolina over the next 15 years.

School leaders reportedly used coal ash as filler and to elevate the playing field in 1992, believing it would not cause any problems. However, soil testing registered high levels of “dangerous metals,” WWAY-TV in Wilmington reported last September.

Since then, students have been apparently barred from using the field.

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ACLU seeks records related to book banning effort

As noted here yesterday, it’s not at all clear that the book banning efforts of religious conservatives in the Brunswick County schools were put to rest with the recent vote to keep Alice Walker’s The Color Purple  on the reading list for some students. Happily, the good folks at the ACLU of North Carolina are digging a little deeper to find out what’s really going on and what’s behind the book banning efforts. This was released this morning:

BOLIVIA, NC – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) yesterday sent a public records request to the Brunswick County Board of Education and the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners seeking all communications between officials related to recent efforts to ban Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Color Purple,” from Brunswick County Advanced Placement (AP) English classes.

The public records request, filed under North Carolina public records laws, also seeks communications regarding any other proposed curriculum changes or plans for banning other works of literature from Brunswick County public schools going back to the 2012-2013 school year. Read more

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Book banning in Brunswick County: Not dead yet?

Book bansBad news for those who had hoped that the move by religious conservatives to ban Alice Walker’s The Color Purple in the Brunswick County schools had run out of steam once and for all with the 3-2 “no” vote on January 3. Judging by the comments of chief book ban champion, board member Catherine Cooke, things may just be getting warmed up.

Check out the video from the January 7 school board meeting in which Cooke goes on a semi-coherent rant (it’s at the 48 minute mark) about how “our Founding Fathers established our universities and our schools on Christian principles,” how she will continue to battle “things that are not decent,” and how she plans to continue to go over curricula and related items with a “fine-toothed comb.”

Sigh….Yet more compelling evidence that there are few tougher jobs in the Republic than serving on a local school board beset by the religious right.

The board meets again next Tuesday the 21st.

(Photo: ACLU of North Carolina)

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Baker Mitchell’s charter schools under investigation by the U.S. Dept. of Education

Yesterday, the State Board of Education approved 26 new charter schools to open this fall – including South Brunswick Charter School, the fourth charter school to open under the management of Baker A. Mitchell, Jr.

Mitchell has collected in the neighborhood of $16 million in taxpayer funds over the past five years for managing three other charter schools in southeastern N.C. Brunswick County Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Pruden is locked in a battle with Mitchell, hoping to convince State Board of Ed members to scrutinize his management practices and hold off awarding him more charters to open up schools.

Pressley Baird of the Star News reports that two of Mitchell’s charter schools are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General.

Charter Day School in Leland and Columbus Charter School in Whiteville, operated by Mitchell’s Roger Bacon Academy, are both under investigation–but the USDOE would not provide details at this time.

Pruden theorizes that the investigation has to do with improper enrollment practices. Boosting enrollment numbers would direct more state funding to Mitchell’s charter schools.

“According to information Brunswick County Schools received, the basis of the alleged investigation was that Charter Day School … used improper means to encourage homeschooled and private school students to enroll during the first few days of school to increase the average daily membership,” Pruden wrote in a letter he sent to the State Board of Education.

Mitchell says he has no knowledge of an investigation.

Read Baird’s full story here.