Two Minnesota boys can join girls-only dance troupe next year

April 29, 2019

Two Minnesota boys who had been barred from dancing in their high schools’ girls-only troupes will be able to join the team next year, after reaching a settlement in their sex discrimination lawsuit against the state’s athletic association.

The Minnesota State High School League will allow male students to participate in the competitive dance league next season, including the two plaintiffs from suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul high schools, the athletic association said in an email late last week.

The boys, who are identified only by their initials in court documents, filed a federal lawsuit last summer in Minnesota. It said they had tried out for the competitive dance league but were denied placement on the roster because of a statewide girls-only rule.

They requested an injunction against the rule, which they said violated their rights under Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments Act, which bans ex-based discrimination in education.

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson rejected the boys’ request for a preliminary injunction, saying the girls-only rule was rooted in state law.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit overturned Judge Magnuson’s decision, saying the high school sports league enforced sex distinctions to the detriment of the boys’ 14th Amendment rights.

Writing for the majority in the March 6 appellate ruling, Judge Michael J. Melloy said the league did “not explain how allowing boys to dance on their schools’ competitive dance teams would be unsafe or how it would deprive girls of opportunities to compete.”

The settlement between the boys’ attorneys and the Minnesota State High School League followed the appeals court decision.

Minnesota is one of more than a dozen states that offer competitive dance in schools.

The attorney for the plaintiffs, Caleb Trotter of the Pacific Legal Foundation, said that separating the sexes for athletic events matters only when a competitive advantage can be gained, which is not the case in dance.

“There is no evidence that boys have any inherent advantage over girls in dance,” Mr. Trotter said.

The plaintiffs one has been dancing for years and the other manages his girl’s team and wants to participate will be seniors in the fall.

Mr. Trotter noted that the settlement does not open coed participation in other sports, such as volleyball and tennis, in which a competitive advantage due to male physical traits may occur.

“Data shows that, nationwide, of all the dancers that are in competitive dance at the high school level, 99% of them are all female,” the attorney said. “So boys suddenly going to take roster sports is just not borne out by the facts.”