A male member of the varsity competitive dance team at a Wisconsin high school has filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Education Department, alleging that his legal rights were violated because he was forbidden from participating in a dance meet in Minnesota with his female teammates because of his gender.
Kaiden Johnson, a sophomore at Superior High School, could not attend the dance meet in Duluth in 2016 because, the complaint says (see it in full below), dance is a “girls only” sport in the Minnesota State High School League. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination at federally funded schools.
The U.S. Education Department did not immediately respond to a query about the complaint. Neither did the Minnesota State High School League. On the league’s website, the rules and regulations for dance is titled, “Official Bylaws for Girls’ Dance Team.”
Johnson, with the help of the nonprofit Pacific Legal Foundation, is asking the Office for Civil Rights in the Education Department to intervene to make sure that no state can bar any student from a competitive dance event because of their gender.
A news release quoted Joshua Thompson, senior attorney at the legal foundation, as saying, “The Minnesota league cannot continue to discriminate by banning boys from competitive dancing. Title IX’s requirement for equal opportunity for all students, regardless of sex, is crystal clear. Schools cannot tell either boys or girls, ‘you’re the wrong sex, therefore, no dancing for you.’ ”
It also quoted the teenager as saying, “I believe everybody should have the right to do what they want and what they love. I don’t believe it should be based on whether you’re a boy or a girl.”
A recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story on the Minnesota dance event, which took place last December, said that Johnson went to the event in Duluth without knowing he could not dance and was in costume, ready to go, when he was told by judges that he could not participate. Lawyers for the legal foundation sent a letter asking the league to change its policy. Last May, KQDS-TV in Duluth reported that an official with the Minnesota High School Dance Team Association said that changing the rule could be difficult because girls-only teams are intended to help create a balance in school sports with boys teams as required by Title IX.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been involved in setting new Title IX implementation policy, recently rescinding Obama-era guidance to schools on how to deal with sexual assault on campus, reversing course on federal policy that had helped drive schools to do more to protect sexual assault victims. Sexual-assault survivors had hailed the guidance for providing them with long-overdue protections, though critics accused said it amounted to federal micromanaging and pushed colleges to find students guilty.
Here’s the complaint: