The Minnesota State High School League has agreed to a settlement that will allow boys to compete on high school dance teams beginning with the 2019-20 school year.
The league’s decision follows a March ruling by a federal appeals court that it must allow two high school boys in Roseville and Hopkins to be a part of their schools’ competitive dance teams.
In a statement sent last week to member schools, the Minnesota State High School League said the settlement avoids further litigation and “allows the MSHSL to work in partnership with our member schools and the Minnesota Association of Dance Teams to prepare for the upcoming dance season.”
The statement added that the league had “long been a leader in providing opportunities for males and females in both athletics and activities.”
MSHSL officials could not be reached Monday for further comment.
The boys, Dmitri Moua and Zachary Greenwald, filed a suit last summer against the league, which had bylaws stating that dance teams were for girls only. The two juniors argued that those rules constituted discrimination on the basis of gender.
The Pacific Legal Foundation, a California-based nonprofit specializing in civil liberty violations, took up the boys’ case pro bono and asked for an injunction to be placed on the teams while the suit progressed.
U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson initially denied the injunction and ruled that the league was allowed to create girls-only teams. He said that allowing the boys to dance could cause the league to fall out of compliance with Title IX, which requires increased athletic opportunities for girls.
In reversing that decision March 6, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals cited the 14th Amendment requirement that no state can “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Minnesota state law allows the league to discriminate in limited circumstances, but only when athletic activities for a sex had been previously limited.
Both sides submitted data that showed girls were underrepresented an average of 1% in interscholastic sports from 2013 to 2017.
The MSHSL “cannot prohibit boys from participating on girls’ teams unless it has some other exceedingly persuasive justification for doing so,” Judge Michael Melloy wrote in his opinion.
The boys will be able to compete in their senior year at Roseville and Hopkins high schools.
Both had said they wanted to see the rules changed so other boys wouldn’t have to sit on the sidelines.
“We never thought this was going to end,” Greenwald told the Star Tribune in March. “For so long, I’ve just had to sit and watch. Now I’ll finally be able to participate.”
The larger issue of whether banning boys from competitive dance is gender discrimination is yet to be litigated in federal district court. Minnesota appears to be the only state that bars boys from competitive dance.
Greenwald began dancing in fifth grade, while Moua discovered dance a few years later.
By his sophomore year, Moua wanted to move from extracurricular dance to the competitive dance team, but he was told he couldn’t try out based on his gender.
The boys served as team managers instead, tagging along at dance meets and offering encouragement.
Staff writers Brandon Stahl and Liz Sawyer contributed to this report.
Mara Klecker • 612-673-4440