K.J. v. Minnesota State High School League

School athletics can’t turn kids away based on their sex

Cases > Equality Under the Law > K.J. v. Minnesota State High School League
Case Status: Won: MSHSL reversed its policy, allowing boys to dance.

Kaiden Johnson loves competitive dance, and he is a valued member of the varsity dance team at Superior High School in Superior, Wisconsin. But the team primarily competes against high schools across the river in Duluth—and the Minnesota State High School League has a “girls only” policy for dance teams. When Kaiden attended a meet in Duluth in December, 2016, officials enforcing that restriction prohibited him from dancing—for the sole reason that he is a boy. On his behalf, PLF and senior attorney Joshua Thompson are demanding that the league abandon its discriminatory policy, or face an Equal Protection lawsuit.

Kaiden Johnson is a 15-year-old sophomore male student at Superior High School of Superior, Wisconsin. Kaiden has danced competitively for eight years, and a year ago successfully competed for Superior High’s varsity dance team. Because the city of Superior borders Minnesota, Superior High’s athletics teams primarily compete against five Minnesota high schools located in the Duluth, Minnesota metropolitan area; Superior High and these Minnesota schools, along with one other Wisconsin high school, comprise the Lake Superior Conference, a division of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL).

At a Lake Superior Conference dance competition held this past December, Kaiden was prohibited from competing with his team based on his sex. MSHSL officials in charge of the competition forced Superior High’s dance team to comply with the league’s designation of dance as a female-only sport, consequently prohibiting Kaiden from competing due to his sex. Kaiden’s mother, Miranda Lynch, asserted that the Minnesota law applies even at dance competitions hosted by Superior High in Wisconsin so long as MSHSL-affiliated teams and judges are involved. Ergo, as Superior High competes primarily with Minnesota schools in the Lake Superior Conference, Kaiden will be prohibited from competing in future dance competitions.

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. 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.  Superior High and MSHSL have so far failed make an exemption for Kaiden’s participation.

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What’s at stake?

  • There’s no reason for excluding males from competing in dance competitions. Every American, regardless of their race, ethnicity or sex, are entitled to protections under the Equal Protection Clause.
  • No government entity should discriminate against citizens like Kaiden Johnson and use his sex as the basis for the discrimination. It’s flat-out wrong and unconstitutional.
  • If the Minnesota State High School League persists in its discrimination, PLF will seek a legal remedy to stop it.

Case Timeline

Motion for Preliminary Injunction

September 12, 2018 Download


November 14, 2017 Download

Johnson v. MSHSL - PLF Letter to MSHSL

October 10, 2017 Download

Case Attorneys

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