All high school sophomore Kaiden Johnson wanted to do was compete with his dance team, but right before taking the stage at his first event last year, the Minnesota State High School League barred him from doing so. The reason: He was a boy. According to their bylaws, only girls can compete on dance teams.
But the 15-year-old, his mother, Miranda Lynch, and Pacific Legal Foundation senior attorney Joshua P. Thompson refuse to take no for an answer. On Tuesday, Thompson’s team officially filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of Kaiden.
Thompson tells Yahoo Lifestyle that they asked for the civil rights office to open an investigation and do everything in their power to stop the Minnesota State High School League from discriminating against Kaiden.
“There’s no reason for the league to be discriminatory. There’s a good reason you would want to have separate sexes for different sports, like risk of injury, but it’s not the case here,” he says.
Kaiden’s school, Superior High School, is located in Superior, Wisc., but because the towns in that area are too small to form a league, the sports teams compete in the Minnesota League, the dance team included. According to that league, boys cannot compete on “girls” teams in their state.
Thompson maintains this policy violates Title IX, which protects students from discrimination, gender included.
“Put simply, if the government is going to endeavor to discriminate on the basis of sex, it better have a damn good reason to do so,” he says. “Saying dance is for girls, and boys should stick to football, is the opposite of a good reason. It is offensive, outdated, and discriminatory. And the Constitution and Title IX prohibit that classification.”
A spokesperson for the Minnesota State High School League tells Yahoo Lifestyle that they didn’t discriminate against Kaiden because his team, which is from Wisconsin, shouldn’t have been able to compete in their league at all, pointing out that dance isn’t a sanctioned sport in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association.
When asked why, after Kaiden’s school had competed in the Minnesota League for the last five years, this was just coming to their attention now, he responded, “I have no idea.”
He adds it’d be up to the schools to change any policy based on gender.
But Thompson isn’t going to wait until that happens. Kaiden has been dancing since he was about 5 years old and made the junior varsity teams his freshman year as well as the varsity team for jazz. His team fully accepted him, but he never got to compete.
He told Pacific Legal Foundation in a podcast that he didn’t continue with the team after the league stopped him from competing, but he later started up again, and he made the teams again this year in hopes things will change.
He says when he had been bullied in elementary and middle school, he’d use it to motivate him. “It always drove me to work harder and be a better dancer to prove them wrong,” he said in the podcast. It appears this case is no different.
His mother, Miranda, supports him every step of the way.
“It’s not just about my son. It’s about boys that have come and gone that have wanted to do this and can’t,” she said. “And it’s about the ones coming behind him. It just happens to be my son we want to make the change with.”
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