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Teen challenges policy barring boy dancers

A 15-year-old boy is challenging a policy that prevents high school boys from competing on girls’ dance teams in South Dakota.

Attorneys on Thursday filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the South Dakota High School Activities Association on behalf of Freddie Linden and his mother.

Linden tried to join the program at Dakota Valley High School in North Sioux City, South Dakota, after he graduated from middle school but was told he couldn’t.

According to the lawsuit, the association’s policy allows girls to participate on boys’ teams when there is no girls’ team. But the policy does not allow boys to participate on girls’ teams if the school does not field a team for boys.

Linden’s attorneys contend the policy is discriminatory and unconstitutional, the Argus Leader reported.

Executive director Dan Swartos said the association has not been served with paperwork and had no comment.

Linden began dancing at the age of 7, according to the lawsuit. His mother, Stephanie, recognized that he had talent and when he turned 9, she rented an apartment in Los Angeles where he trained extensively, often with adults and older children.

After two years, he moved back to South Dakota and continued to take private lessons at a studio in McCook Lake, South Dakota. After he was told he could not dance on the high school team, Linden became the team manager.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, based in Sacramento, California, filed the lawsuit along with a Sioux Falls law firm. The nonprofit organization also filed a complaint in November with the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of Kaiden Johnson, a Wisconsin boy who was told he could not compete with his dance team in Minnesota because that state does not allow boys on high school dance teams.

Johnson, who is now a sophomore at Superior High School, is dancing with his team in Wisconsin, and the Office for Civil Rights is still reviewing the complaint, Pacific League Foundation spokesman Collin Callahan said Thursday.

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