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Complaint filed over Minnesota high school dance team policy of girls only

Superior (Wis.) High School sophomore Kaiden Johnson is a member of the Superior High School dance team, but was prevented from competing in a Duluth competition sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League. He's challenging the MSHSL policy. (Photo courtesy of Pacific Legal Foundation)

DULUTH, Minn.—Lawyers working on behalf of a Superior (Wis.) High School student have requested a federal investigation into whether the Minnesota State High School League's girls-only policy for dance teams violates Title IX.

Attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation, a nonprofit representing Superior High School sophomore Kaiden Johnson, filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights on Tuesday.

Johnson is a member of the Superior High School dance team, but was prevented from competing last winter in a competition just across the border in Duluth that was sanctioned by the MSHSL

The complaint alleges that the MSHSL's dance team policy violates Title IX by classifying students by gender without adequate justification, failing to provide an equal coeducational alternative and failing to ensure that the program doesn't rely on "overly broad generalizations" about the talents, capabilities and preferences of either gender.

"This is just the first step in vindicating not only Kaiden's rights to equal protection, but the rights of all Minnesota kids," Joshua Thompson, an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation, said..

The MSHSL said in October that it doesn't comment on pending or threatened litigation, but its policy says that girls dance teams "may not rise to the level of a gender equity activity for the purpose of Title IX."

Pacific Legal Foundation sent a letter to the MSHSL in October demanding that it change its girls-only policy for dance teams or face legal action — and the MSHSL has yet to reply.

"We've given the Minnesota State High School League now a month to correct its policy. They haven't done so. What we did today is just the first step and hopefully this will push them in the right direction, but if it doesn't, we're certainly prepared to file the lawsuit in federal court," Thompson said.

If the MSHSL had changed its policy, the Pacific Legal Foundation wouldn't have felt the need to file the complaint, Thompson said. Although the timeline for the Office for Civil Rights' investigation is unknown, Thompson said they'll likely file a federal lawsuit against the MSHSL in the coming weeks if they don't hear from the league. The resolution of the Title IX complaint would apply to all Minnesota students, but the lawsuit would pertain specifically to Johnson's situation.