Male High School Student Banned From Participating in Girls Dance Team Competition

A boy's silhouette with a red slash through it. Beneath the image are the words "no boys."

Image: Shutterstock

Superior High School in Superior, Wisconsin, has no problem with a boy on their varsity dance team. Kaiden Johnson, a sophomore, loves to dance and does it very well. But when it came time for his team to compete at the Minnesota State High School League competition, he wasn’t allowed. He was there, in costume, and prepared with his female teammates, when judges told him he could not participate.

The League deems it “Girls Dance Team” on their website. An official of the League said last year (before this incident) that it would be impossible to change the rule because girls-only teams are intended to balance high school sports boys teams, as required by federal law Title IX, which addresses discrimination in educational institutions. But Title IX doesn’t have a separate-but-equal clause, according to the complaint filed on Johnson’s behalf. It specifies that no school or part of a school (such as a team) which receives federal funding can discriminate based on sex.

Johnson and his family enlisted help from the nonprofit Pacific Legal Foundation to intervene with the U.S. Department of Education and the League on his behalf.

“The Minnesota league cannot continue to discriminate by banning boys from competitive dancing. Title IX’s requirement for equal opportunity for all students, regardless of sex, is crystal clear. Schools cannot tell either boys or girls, ‘you’re the wrong sex, therefore, no dancing for you,’” said Joshua Thompson, senior attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, in a news release.

“I believe everybody should have the right to do what they want and what they love,” the same release quoted Johnson as saying. “I don’t believe it should be based on whether you’re a boy or a girl.” There is no opportunity for boys to compete in intramural dance in either Minnesota or Wisconsin.

5 Things to Know About Betsy DeVos

A picture of Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump.

Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump.
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If you’re not familiar with Betsy DeVos yet, you’ve come to the right place. I’m writing this post for people who want a brief synopsis of who she is. With that being said, let’s start with the basics. Betsy DeVos is Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of education. You’ve probably seen her in the news a lot lately following her Senate confirmation hearing. Here’s what you need to know.

  1. She Doesn’t Have Any Prior Experience with Public Education

If confirmed into office, Betsy Devos would be the first secretary of education to have zero prior experience with public schools. She has never attended a public school, worked in one, nor sent her children to one. Many Congressmen and women find her unqualified for the position because of this.

  1. She’s a Big Believer in Private Education

During the Senate hearing, Betsy DeVos refused to answer a question as to whether or not she would reallocate public school funds towards private education. But that’s fine, considering that her family’s donations do all the talking. Her family has contributed a total of $8.6 million to private Christian schools.

  1. She Supports Gay Conversion Therapy

Betsy DeVos comes from an extremely wealthy family, and by wealthy, I’m talking they’re worth billions. In the past, DeVos and her family have donated extravagant amounts of money to anti-LGBT organizations such as Focus on the Family. Focus on the Family believes that homosexuality is “preventable and treatable.”

  1. She Has No Idea What IDEA Is

IDEA stands for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. You’d be forgiven if you weren’t familiar with the term, but anyone who works in education should be. That’s why it came as a shock when, during the Senate confirmation hearing, DeVos appeared completely clueless as to whether or not all schools should be required to comply with IDEA. She eventually ended up saying that it should be “left up to the states,” even though IDEA is a federal law.

  1. She May Try to Repeal Title IX Guidelines

When DeVos was asked about Title IX guidelines as it relates to campus sexual assault, she was unsure as to whether or not she would uphold those laws.

“Senator, I know that there’s a lot of conflicting ideas and opinions around that guidance — and if confirmed I would look forward to working with you and your colleagues and understand the range of opinion and understand the issues from the higher-ed institutions that are charged with resolving these and addressing them and I would look forward to working together to find some resolutions,” DeVos stated.

 And there you have it, folks. That’s your next secretary of education. Happy Inauguration Day, by the way.

Brigham Young University Finally Takes a Stand Against Sexual Assault

A stack of papers that reads "sexual assault." There is a gavel on top of the papers.

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Mormon-owned Brigham Young University has long been known for their dubious handling of sexual assault reporting. Until now, it has been common for the school to closely investigate anyone reporting an assault for violations of the school’s honor code. The school’s honor code, which is mandatory for all attendees and strictly so for anyone living on campus, prohibits sexual activity and substance use, even alcohol, in keeping with the school’s religious leanings.

The school has always maintained that its honor-code investigations are entirely separate from federal Title IX inquiries (in-house sexual assault falls under Title IX). But investigations found that it was common for the on-campus Title IX office to share names and details with the honor-code office. There are also allegations that local police have also been improperly sharing information.

The result of that sharing is that a student trying to report their own assault could wind up penalized or expelled for activities unrelated to the school, even if they kept them discreet. This, of course, discouraged reports. One student who came forward was subjected to a two-month probation while she was investigated, without apology when she was eventually cleared.

After several students and alumni have come forward to the media about similar experiences, BYU has finally made a commitment to change in order to better protect its students. A faculty council has made a series of recommendations with student input, and the school seems to be listening. The names of victims are now specifically forbidden from being given to the honor code office, and an honor code amnesty clause is in progress. The university is also hiring victims advocates to provide an additional layer of confidentiality between victims and the school.

More than 200 universities across the country are currently under investigation for their handling of sexual assault on campus. It is reassuring to see one of the worst offenders taking such a large step.