"The best way to predict your future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln High School Statesman

"The best way to predict your future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln High School Statesman

"The best way to predict your future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln High School Statesman

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SFSD Title IX lawsuit raises new issues in SFSD sports

LHS senior Anna Leuning, third person from the left, is smiling at a gymnastics meet with the LHS gymnastics team. (Used with permission from KELOLAND)
LHS senior Anna Leuning, third person from the left, is smiling at a gymnastics meet with the LHS gymnastics team. (Used with permission from KELOLAND)

Around early-mid October 2023, SFSD gymnasts heard the news that gymnastics is making a comeback amidst the Title IX federal lawsuit against the district.

The Title IX federal lawsuit was filed on Sept. 12, 2023, by plaintiffs from the SFSD gymnastics girls aged 7-17 and their parents. The suit was filed against the SFSD, including Superintendent Jane Stavem and Coordinator of Athletics Casey Meilie. According to the court documents, the plaintiffs asserted that the SFSD violated Title IX, a civil rights law against sex discrimination, by eliminating gymnastics as a school sport. The plaintiffs continued in the case, stating that by the SFSD slashing the funding for gymnastics, a predominantly girls sport, it will “deny female students the same level of opportunities and benefits that it is affording to male students.”

Due to U. S. District Judge Charles Kornmann allowing the injunction to keep the school district from selling off gymnastics equipment and preventing the elimination of gymnastics, the SFSD officially reinstated gymnastics for at least this year. 

The Statesman attempted to interview the SFSD for their side, but due to the lawsuit still pending, they declined to comment on the recent gymnastics suit. The district has released a public response about the gymnastics injunction:

“In light of the preliminary injunction decision, which highlighted the disparity within the district between the number of male athletes compared to female athletes, the SFSD intends to take the necessary measures to ensure sports offerings generate equal participation for males and females to guarantee compliance with TItle IX.” said Superintendent Stavem.

Even so, one of the plaintiffs, LHS senior Anna Leuning, nicknamed A. L. in the case, spoke about the time gymnastics was cut. 

“At the time it [LHS gymnastics] was cut, a lot of news anchors came. I wasn’t even concerned for myself. I was concerned for all the younger girls coming into gymnastics since we already had some middle schoolers on the team,” said Leuning. “Yeah, I was sad I could not do [gymnastics] my senior year, but I was more sad for the girls who would have never got to do it.”

When the SFSD reinstated gymnastics, it was a big surprise for Leuning and the team. Leuning expected it to be a while before this lawsuit and injunction would go into action.

“It was a big surprise. The injunction ruling happened two weeks before the season started. I was so shocked. I was so set on it not happening [and] I was planning other things. In my head, I was like, ‘I’m so glad it’s here,’” said Leuning.

Despite the win on the injunction, there have been additional concerns about the SFSD’s new solution for keeping gymnastics. Allegedly, the SFSD is considering reducing the roster of boys sports to compensate for gymnastics staying, possibly affecting this year’s spring sports like track and field. Gymnasts’ parents have been uneasy about this possible change in sports. From SiouxFallsLive, a gymnastics parent named Allen expressed this concern to the school board.

“Punishing boys for the district’s lack of opportunity for girls is concerning on so many levels. It speaks to the district’s lack of creativity and unwillingness to seek fair solutions. It also is just really mean, short-minded and smacks of reprisal,” said Allen during a school board meeting.

There has been massive pushback from gymnasts’ parents as well as other parents who have sons in the district, some pointing out that Title IX should serve both boys and girls. The district has not yet responded to these claims.  

 

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About the Contributor
Shalom Kato, Staff Writer
Shalom Kato is an LHS senior,  Statesman staff writer and a tea-taster extraordinaire. When she is not diligently working on stories, she can likely be found making up her extremely late homework in the debate room. Kato often spends her free time analyzing crime documentaries, attempting and failing at karate YouTube tutorials, perusing around downtown Sioux Falls and being forced to drive her friends.
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