A top-flight legal team with a long record of victories at the U.S. Supreme Court in property and civil rights cases is pressing the Minnesota State High School League to explain why it bans boys from its high school dance competitions.
Kaiden Johnson, a 15-year-old sophomore at Superior High School in Superior, Wisconsin, has danced competitively for eight years. This year, on the school’s varsity dance team, he went across the state line to an event in Minnesota, where he was banned from the competition.
Because he is a boy.
Working on his behalf is Pacific Legal Foundation, which threatened a lawsuit if the “discrimination” continues.
“If we do not hear from you by November 3, 2017, we will presume that MSHSL wishes to continue its discriminatory policy. At that time we will pursue all available options for vindicating Kaiden’s constitutional rights, as well as the rights of current and future Minnesota students,” the letter explained.
The letter was addressed to David Stead, chief of the league, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, as well as the organization’s board of directors.
Pacific Legal explained Johnson’s decision to pursue dancing instead of a “boy sport” has led to “years of bullying, teasing, and loneliness.”
But he loves it.
“When you dance, it’s basically a story. I just love being able to express myself – to show my side of the story,” he was quoted saying in the letter.
But when he went to Minnesota for the Lake Superior Conference Dance Championships, “one of his teammates informed him that MSHSL judges would not allow him to compete with the team, because he is a boy.”
The judges at the event “were following MSHSL bylaws which designate dance as a girls-only sport. … By choosing to prohibit boys from dancing MSHSL is denying Kaiden, and hundreds of Minnesota boys, the opportunity to participate in a sport they love.”
Pacific Legal argues the ban violates the 14th Amendment, “which guarantees all individuals ‘the equal protection of the laws.'”
To maintain a rule against boys, the state would need to document that such actions “serve important governmental objectives and must be substantially related to achievement of those objectives.”
Pacific Legal is putting the MSHSL on notice that the Constitution frowns on such discrimination.
“Your classification expressly discriminates on the basis of sex, and critically does so without justifications. … By denying Kaiden Johnson the opportunity to compete on this basis, MSHSL has violated his right to equal protection of the laws.”
The legal team said that when interviewed by a local reporter about Kaiden’s disqualification, MSHSL Associate Director Kevin Merkle claimed that “the league is talking about possible revisions to their rules when it comes to how they judge teams from different states that do allow boys to be part of the dance team,’ and that ‘a decision will be made in the coming weeks.'”
Pacific Legal said that although Kaiden was discouraged at being singled-out and disqualified from competing with the rest of his teammates this past dance season, “he has nonetheless tried out and made next year’s varsity dance team, with the hope that MSHSL officials enforcing Minnesota’s discriminatory law will not further impede his participation.”