Minnesota dances with discrimination
My child loves to dance. And my child has used that passion and hard work to make the varsity dance team at Superior High School in Superior.
But because my child, Kaiden, is a boy, he's not allowed to compete for his school.
We found this out last December during Kaiden's freshman year, when his team went to his high school conference championship. Even though we are in Wisconsin, Superior is so close to Duluth, the school competes in the Minnesota State High School League.
Just before Kaiden's team was about to perform, league officials told Kaiden he could not participate under league bylaws that say dance is a girls-only sport.
My son was crushed. Kaiden started dancing when he was in diapers, every time he heard music. It was clear even back then that dancing is just a part of who he is.
Kaiden started taking dance classes when he was five, learning tap, ballet, lyrical — you name it. Then when he got to high school, he took off with jazz, pom and kick, and made the varsity dance team as a freshman.
For the first time, Kaiden felt as if he really belonged. As you might imagine, being a boy in the traditional girls world of dancing led to taunting and bullying when he was younger. Kaiden didn't even want to go to school many times.
But his high school team embraced him and together, they put in 12 hours of practice a week to perfect their mechanics and teamwork. Banning my son from competition doesn't just hurt him, it hurts the team. And how many other boys attending Minnesota schools are denied the ability to follow their passion just because their passion happens to be dance?
I never thought I'd see such discrimination against males. My son — and all boys in America — have a constitutional right to equal protection under the law.
I find it a little ironic that Kaiden is taught in school about the U.S. Constitution and our rights as Americans. And at the same time, he's told he doesn't have the right to compete in a school dance competition because of his gender.
It's bad enough when your child is bullied by other kids for doing something he wants to do. Now, it's the state of Minnesota and the Minnesota State High School League doing the bullying. And it's heartbreaking to see this happen to my own son.
This is 2017, not 1917 or even 1977.
We've come a long way from the days of girls-only dance teams or cheerleading squads, or boys-only football and baseball teams. In fact, girls have been allowed to play in the Little League Baseball World Series since 1974. Since then, 18 have done so, including Mo'ne Davis who became the first girl to pitch a shutout in the 2014 World Series and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
I would be just as proud to see my son on the cover of Dance Magazine. An outdated 1970s law should not stand in the way of Kaiden or any boy in Minnesota from doing what he's done all his life and wants to pursue at the next competitive levels.
Frankly, I'm surprised the state where a superstar musical performer like Prince lived for such a long time would still have such a law. And today we have "Dancing with the Stars" on television, which has taken competitive dancing by women and men to new and exciting heights in our nation's culture.
Like Kaiden, I believe everybody should have the right to do what they want and love. It shouldn't be based on whether you're a boy or a girl.
Thank goodness the writers of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution believed this too.
I hope the Minnesota State High School League does the right thing and stops enforcing this archaic, unconstitutional bylaw. Better yet, the state should take the law that enabled such discrimination, and wipe it off the books for good.
Miranda Lynch is Kaiden Johnson's mother and a resident of Superior. She is represented free of charge by Pacific Legal Foundation.