SUPERIOR, WI -- A California-based national law firm is pressing the issue of a Wisconsin boy barred from taking part in a high school competition last year.
Kaiden Johnson, a Superior High School sophomore, joined the Superior Spartans Dance Line last year and was welcomed aboard by the previously all-girl squad.
“The majority of my classmates they’re super supportive of it, they think it’s super cool that I’m the only boy on the dance team,” Kaiden told KARE.
He’s been dancing since he was a toddler, and in lessons since he was four years old.
“I think I could cry every time I see him perform,” his mother, Miranda Lynch, remarked.
Last December Superior High hosted a regional competition, that included teams from neighboring Minnesota.That’s when Kaiden ran square into Minnesota’s rulebook, which bars boys from girls’ dance squads.
“I was told by one of my friends that came out of the locker room that I wasn’t allowed to dance,” Kaiden recalled. “It was just complete heartbreak.”
Miranda couldn’t believe what she was hearing, and quickly found the coaches and got an explanation. Even though the event was in Wisconsin, Minnesota State High School League bylaws were enforced.
“They told me if it’s in Minnesota he’s not allowed to compete or if it’s in Wisconsin and there are Minnesota judges he’s not allowed to compete, in events that are scored with points.”
The California-based Pacific Legal Foundation heard about the story, after a local Duluth TV station covered the controversy. Pacific Legal released a YouTube video detailing Kaiden’s plight, and postulated that Kaiden’s constitutional right to equal protection under the law, guaranteed in the 14th Amendment, was being violated by the rule.
Pacific Legal Foundation and wrote to the Minnesota State High School League threatening a lawsuit if the rule isn’t changed by November 3. If the case does go to court it could challenge how the state enforces federal Title IX gender equity rules.
“I’ve had people from all over the US reach out to us and thank us for being willing to put our faces out there and stand up and try and fix Title IX,” Miranda said.
Kaiden said he has heard from high school boys in Minnesota who also want to join dance teams but have been wary of taking on the legal system and weathering criticism for those who dance fans who oppose the idea.
“As a dancer, you do put a lot of time into this. And when you’re confronted and told you can’t dance, it’s feels like you can do nothing,” Kaiden lamented.
The Minnesota State High School League declined to comment on the situation, because it’s a pending legal matter.
The league’s bylaws state dance teams are not considered a statewide sanctioned activity, for the purposes of enforcing federal gender equity rules.
Miranda is mystified by how the rules are being applied to her son, at a time that girls are allowed to play on boy’s football teams and wrestle with boys. She said those are examples of sports without a female equivalent, and there are no male dance squads.
“We’re living in an era where we’ve got gay marriage, we’re talking about transgender restrooms, and we can’t let a 15-year-old boy dance on a girls’ team?”