Nikki’s Notebook: Title IX Rule Keeps Boys Off Dance Team

Superior Dancer Not Allowed To Compete In Competition With Minnesota Judges

A lot has changed in the past 30 years when it comes to high school athletic competitions, but a law in Minnesota has got some students and parents questioning what’s fair and if it’s time for a change.

A Minnesota law that hasn’t been updated since the 1970’s is keeping some athletes out of competition, most recently its kept a freshman in the Northland from being able to fully be part of team he loves.

At Madill Performing Arts there’s a growing group of dancers that might not have existed a few years ago.

“It has become so much more prevalent for boys to dance, if you want to be a good athlete dance is so good for you,” said Madill staff member Pattie Pitoscia.

It’s a passion that Superior high school freshman Kaiden Johnson has shared for 11 years, dancing competitively for eight of those years.

“I love being able to express emotion, with not saying anything,” said Johnson.

FOX 21 first spoke with him last year when he was excited to be accepted onto the Superior Dance Team, but when it came time to compete in a Lake Superior Conference with Minnesota schools, he found himself on the sidelines.

“(My teammates) they were like ‘Kaiden you can’t dance, like you’re not allowed to dance,’ in my head I was like ‘What to they mean by that,’” said Johnson.

It comes down to a Minnesota Title IX rule that says boys can’t be on the dance team, and since Minnesota judges were at the competition the Superior, Wisconsin team had to follow their rules.

“I was so angry, so angry because how is this possible that there’s this sort of discrimination? It’s discrimination against the males,” said Miranda Lynch, Johnson’s mother.

We spoke with Kevin Merkle, the Associate Director of the Minnesota High School Dance Team Association over the phone, he said the rule is meant to protect girls in sports.

“It precludes males from being on teams that are for females,” said Merkle.” It was brought in at the time of Title IX when girl’s athletics first started. The idea was to protect those teams, and not take opportunities from females.”

“Because of that law, it’s been on the books these years that females can participate on male teams but not vice versa,” said Merkle.

It’s a law that Johnson says is outdated, and needs to change.

“I want to be with the team, be united as one instead of sitting and supporting them,” said Johnson.

He’s not alone Madill says the rule could affect many more boys in the future.

However, Merkle says the league has only had a handful of boys wanting to join Minnesota teams, and changing the rule is more complicated than it seems.

“It’s a part of gender equity, schools have a girl’s dance team that counts as one of the girl sports to balance boy sports,” said Merkle.

It’s a tangled web that’s little comfort to young dancers like Johnston.

“If these boys want to dance, let them dance,” said Lynch. “We let our kids play sports why can’t they dance?

Title IX can only be changed by lawmakers at the statehouse, but the league is talking about possible revisions to their rules when it comes to how they judge teams from different states that do allow boys to be part of the dance team. Merkle says a decision will be made in the coming weeks.

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