A North Carolina charter school learned this week that when you take funding from the government, it comes with the responsibility of doing things legally. That includes following the the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.  The Supreme Court declined to hear the case of  Charter Day School v. Peltier where parents and students sued over the institution’s dress code policy that says girls must wear skirts.

That means that the lower court’s ruling that the school must change its dress code that mandated that girls must wear skirts.

The decision was closely watched as the nation’s charter schools fight to be seen the same as public schools, despite the fact they can get private funding.

The federals appeal court had said the school is a “state actor” and must be treated the same as public schools, meaning it cannot have a dress code which is only aimed at women.

“Today’s announcement is a victory for the thousands of students who attend public charter schools in North Carolina and for the 3.6 million students like them nationwide,” said Ria Tabacco Mar, director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “Girls at public charter schools have the same constitutional rights as their peers at other public schools — including the freedom to wear pants. We will continue to fight for all girls to learn in safe and equal schools.”

Ironically, The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools was also pleased with the decision. Not because the charter school lost the case and charter schools going forward will have to consider the civil rights of students and staff when setting policies, but because the ruling recognized the school as a “state actor.”

“We are pleased to put this matter behind us and move forward with the critically important work of ensuring every child in this nation has access to a high-quality public education. The actions of the high court affirm that as public school students, charter school students are entitled to the same federal protections as their counterparts who attend district schools,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the alliance.

Legal experts expect this will not be the last time that a case involving charter schools will be before the court, especially since Oklahoma recently approved the nation’s first religious charter school, which is certain to face legal challenges.