On August 9, 2021, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals included in a ruling that charter schools should not be considered “state actors,” and are therefore not subject to the Equal Protection Clause. Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, issued the following statement.
“The National Alliance strongly disagrees with the ruling in Peltier v. Charter Day School that this school is a private actor and therefore does not need to uphold the Equal Protection rights of its students.
“All charter schools are public schools. This is clearly, and unequivocally, articulated in every state charter statute across the country and in federal statute. Moreover, every state charter statute recognizes charter schools as part of the state’s public education ecosystem. As such, we firmly believe charter schools cannot discriminate against any student on the basis of sex, gender, race, disability, or religious preference. We insist every charter school student must be given the same federal and state civil rights and constitutional protections as their district school peers.
“This case challenged the Equal Protection rights of students in charter schools in North Carolina. As the dissent notes, this ruling is not only based on antiquated thinking, but is illogical when one considers that the NC legislature created charter schools as public schools and the federal government declares them to be as public as any district-run school.
“Fortunately for the students, the court rightly recognized that the civil rights of students are still protected because charter schools are the recipients of federal funds. Nonetheless, we do not understand how the court arrived at its conclusion that Charter Day School was a private actor, and we will support plaintiffs’ position in any appeal.”
October 19, 2021 Update: At the request of plaintiffs, with amicus support from the National Alliance, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted additional (known as “en banc”) review of the earlier 4th Circuit ruling in Peltier v. Charter Day School. We are hopeful that upon en banc review, the court will affirm that all charter schools are public schools.