Court clears way for boys to try out for girls dance teams in MN

Pacific Legal Foundation

Dmitri Moua, 16, just wanted to dance, but it took him making a federal case out of it to get him to try out for a girls competitive high school dance team in Roseville.

There are no boys teams and the Minnesota State High School League dictates the rules and said “no” to Moua and Zachary Greenwald, a dancer in Hopkins.

The MSHSL is tough to beat on these matters and it appeared the boys would have to sit this one out when U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson rejected their request for an injunction that would have allowed them to dance competitively while their lawsuit — filed on their behalf by the organization that took down Minnesota’s ban on political clothing at polling places — worked its way through the courts.

On Wednesday, however, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Magnuson, who ruled that allowing the boys to dance on a girls team would harm the effort to provide athletic opportunities to women, redressing past discrimination. Besides, Magnuson ruled, the boys’ case is unlikely to succeed.

In his opinion on behalf of the three judge panel, Judge Michael Melloy said the MSHSL needed to show — and didn’t — that girls in Minnesota high schools presently lack athletic opportunities in order to justify banning boys from a girls team.

… over the past five years, the representation of girls in Minnesota athletics has been almost directly proportional to the number of girls enrolled at Minnesota schools.

In fact, in both the 2016–17 and 2017–18 school years, the parties’ means of determining representation show that boys have been slightly underrepresented in high school athletics.

Thus, the League has not shown that the underlying problem it initially sought to remedy by creating all-girl teams—the overall underrepresentation of girls in high school athletics—continues to exist, at least in Minnesota.

Without this underlying problem to remedy, the League cannot prohibit boys from participating on girls’ teams unless it has some other ‘exceedingly persuasive’ justification for doing so.

Because the boys have a shot at winning their case, according to the Court of Appeals, an injunction cannot be denied under the belief that they don’t.

“Students who are denied the opportunity to join their schools’ sports teams because of their sex may suffer irreparable harm,” the court said.

That is especially true here. Both boys are juniors in high school. They love to dance and want to do so competitively as part of a school team. The League’s ban has prohibited them from doing so this year. They cannot get that season back.

Without injunctive relief or final resolution of their suit, they will be prevented from competing next year as well. These sorts of injuries, i.e., deprivations of temporally isolated opportunities, are exactly what preliminary injunctions are intended to relieve.

Both boys will now be allowed to try out for their dance teams next fall as seniors.

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