January 25, 2018

OCR accepts PLF’s complaint and opens an investigation into MSHSL dance discrimination

By Joshua P. Thompson Senior Attorney

This morning I received some excellent news regarding our representation of Kaiden Johnson. Kaiden, as you recall, is a Wisconsin boy who was prohibited from dancing with his teammates in a Minnesota dance competition because he is a boy. In November, PLF filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, alleging that the Minnesota State High School League violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 when it prohibits boys from competing in dance. Today, OCR announced that it has “evaluated” the complaint and has opened it for investigation. This is the first vital and important step in ensuring that Minnesota boys have an equal opportunity to dance. Minnesota, which relies on outmoded stereotypes about why boys should be prohibited from dancing, will now have to justify its discriminatory decision to the United States Department of Education.

But this is only the first step. PLF remains committed to getting justice for Kaiden — and the other Minnesota boys, like Zachary Greenwald, who have contacted Pacific Legal Foundation. Regardless of OCR’s future actions, PLF may still file suit in federal court challenging MSHSL’s discrimination as violating the Constitution. In any event, OCR’s decision today is great news for all who think dance should be open to all irrespective of sex.

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K.J. v. Minnesota State High School League

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, Minnesota—and the Minnesota State High School League has a “girls only” policy for dance teams.

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