D.M., a minor, by Bao Xiong, the mother, legal guardian, and next friend of D.M.; Z.G., a minor, by Joel Greenwald, the father, legal guardian, and next friend of Z.G. Plaintiffs - Appellants
Minnesota State High School League; Bonnie Spohn-Schmaltz, in her official capacity as President of the Board of Directors for the Minnesota State High School League; Erich Martens, in his official capacity as Executive Director of the Minnesota State High School League; Craig Perry, in his official capacity as an Associate Director of the Minnesota State High School League; Bob Madison, in his official capacity as an Associate Director of the Minnesota State High School League Defendants - Appellees Missouri State High School Activities Association; Arkansas Activities Association; Nebraska School Activities Association; North Dakota High School Activities Association; National Federation of State High School Associations Amid on Behalf of Appellee(s) League-Member School Enrollments and Athletes by Gender Year League Members Enrollment Boys League Members Enrollment Girls League Athletes Boys League Athletes Girls Under-represented Sex
Submitted: December 12, 2018
from United States District Court for the District of
LOKEN, MELLOY, and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.
MELLOY, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
2018, two boys sued their state's high school athletic
league and several of its officers for declaratory and
injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The boys
alleged that the league violated their rights under the Equal
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution and under Title IX of the Education Amendments
of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681-88 ("Title
IX"). Specifically, they claimed that the league
unlawfully discriminated against them on the basis of sex
through its rule prohibiting boys from participating on high
school competitive dance teams. The district court denied the
boys' motion for a preliminary injunction, and they
appealed. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
1292(a)(1), we reverse and direct the district court to enter
a preliminary injunction.
D.M. and Z.G. are sixteen-year-old boys who attend high
school in Maplewood and Minnetonka, Minnesota, respectively.
Both are in the eleventh grade. Both are passionate about
dance and have participated in various dance classes and
programs. Both want to dance on their schools'
competitive dance teams but, for reasons explained below,
have been prohibited from doing so.
Minnesota State High School League (the "League")
is a non-profit corporation that is a voluntary association
of high schools. The League exercises authority delegated to
it by the high schools to control high school extracurricular
activities and sports throughout the state. To obtain and
maintain such control, the League passes bylaws and rules
that set forth the standards member schools use to regulate
and supervise those activities and sports.
League's Bylaw 412 limits participation on a school's
competitive dance team to females. The League claims that the
reason for this limitation is that girls' "overall
athletic opportunities have previously been limited,"
whereas boys' have not. To support its claim, the League
points to data compiled by Amicus National Federation of High
School Athletic Associations ("NFHS"). The League
also relies on Minnesota law, which allows for gender-based,
athletic limitations in certain circumstances. See
Minn. Stat. § 121A.04, subdiv. 3 ("[I]n athletic
programs operated by educational institutions or public
services and designed for participants 12 years old or older
or in the 7th grade or above, it is not an unfair
discriminatory practice to restrict membership on an athletic
team to participants of one sex whose overall athletic
opportunities have previously been limited."). Pursuant
to Bylaw 412, neither D.M. nor Z.G. have been allowed to
participate on their schools' competitive dance teams.
and Z.G. sued the League in July 2018 for allegedly violating
Title IX and their rights to equal protection under the
Fourteenth Amendment. Shortly thereafter, the boys moved for
a preliminary injunction of Bylaw 412 as it pertains to boys
and competitive dance teams. The district court denied the
motion. Despite finding that the boys suffered irreparable
harm and that "the balance of harms may favor"
them, the district court concluded that the injunction was
not warranted because the boys were not likely to prevail on
the merits. The district court also concluded that the public
interest, as reflected in Minnesota Statute section 121A.04,
favored denying the injunction. The court explained that
"[t]he girls-only dance team rule is substantially
related to an important governmental objective"-namely,
"increasing girls' athletic opportunities."
Moreover, the court said that Title IX permits the League to
create girls-only athletic teams such as dance teams. The
boys timely filed a notice of appeal.
review "the denial of a preliminary injunction for abuse
of discretion." Gresham v. Swanson, 866 F.3d
853, 854 (8th Cir. 2017). A district court abuses its
discretion when it "rests its conclusion on clearly
erroneous factual findings or erroneous legal
conclusions." Jones v. Kelley, 854 F.3d 1009,
1013 (8th Cir. 2017) (per curiam). "We will not disturb
a district court's discretionary decision if such
decision remains within the range of choice available to the
district court, accounts for all relevant factors, does not
rely on any irrelevant factors, and does not constitute a
clear error of judgment." Richland/Wilkin Joint
Powers Auth. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs, 826 F.3d
1030, 1035 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting PCTV Gold, Inc. v.
SpeedNet, LLC, 508 F.3d 1137, 1142 (8th Cir. 2007)). We
review a district court's legal conclusions de novo.
Barrett v. Claycomb, 705 F.3d 315, 320 (8th Cir.
determining whether to issue a preliminary injunction, the
district court considers: "(1) the threat of irreparable
harm to the movant; (2) the state of balance between this
harm and the injury that granting the injunction will inflict
on other parties litigant; (3) the probability that [the]
movant will succeed on the merits; and (4) the public
interest." Dataphase Sys., Inc. v. C L Sys.,
Inc., 640 F.2d 109, 114 (8th Cir. 1981) (en banc).
Generally, no one of these factors is determinative.
Id. at 113. However, "the absence of a
likelihood of success on the merits strongly suggests that
preliminary injunctive relief should be denied."
Barrett, 705 F.3d at 320 ...