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Dancing hopes
South Dakota boy takes legal action to dance on girls teams in competitions

DAKOTA DUNES -- Freddie Linden just wants a chance to compete with the girls dance team at Dakota Valley High School.

The southeast South Dakota school and his friends on the squad support his decision. But South Dakota High School Activities Association rules forbid mixed gender teams in state-sanctioned tournaments. So, Linden, a Dakota Valley freshman, is suing to lift that ban.

"We hope that we will win the case," Linden said Wednesday. "It is such an outdated rule for 2018, for boys not to participate. I just hope I can dance next season."

Stephanie Linden, Freddie's mother, said the family filed suit against the SDHSAA after they were left with no other choice.

"Dakota Valley is in support of Freddie dancing on the team. Their hands are tied, as they must follow the law," Stephanie Linden said.

His mother has taken to social media sites to promote the action the family is pursuing with support from the Pacific Legal Foundation. The firm has a history of taking on personal liberty cases, to support "peoples’ right to freely associate and express themselves," according to its website.

In a recent Facebook post, Stephanie Linden wrote, "Thank you to everyone for your support and kind words about Freddie’s story/ lawsuit. Our goal is to get this changed for Freddie and all the other male dancers that live within the 20 states that follow this same rule! I appreciate all the shares and posts. #letFreddiedance ."

PLF last week filed suit in federal court in Sioux Falls on behalf of Freddie, arguing the association's “female-only” designation for competitive dance violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

Freddie Linden, 15, is the second oldest of four siblings.

"My mom always saw as a toddler and kid that I loved to dance. I like the music and I like to express myself...I consider dance a sport and an art," he said.

Freddie Linden, who started training in a dance studio in first grade, practices about 14 hours per week, and is highly talented, as evidenced by awards he has received.

He is the only male dancer at the studio, while many female studio dancers from that studio are on the Dakota Valley dance team. Stephanie Linden declined to identify the studio, other than to say it's in South Dakota.

"Parents from other dance studios have commented that they love to watch Freddie dance at the competitions that their daughters are in," Stephanie Linden said.

Freddie Linden said he first learned he couldn't be on the Dakota Valley dance team in eighth grade, when an email went out telling girls they could sign up for the 2017-18 team. He went to the dance coach and asked, "Why does it say girls only?"

The coach explained it wasn't open to boys, due to a state rule. Freddie said he didn't ask Dakota Valley administrators to intercede.

A news release from Pacific Legal Foundation said the South Dakota High School Activities Association "in a misguided effort to comply with federal Title IX requirements" set competitive dance as a female-only sport, with no corresponding male-only team. Therefore, Linden's only role for competitive high school dance is attending practices and competitions as team manager.

"I had to sit and watch, and play the music, as dance manager. I'd like to be the one dancing," Freddie Linden said.

"This arbitrary, backwards-looking statute violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. Preventing males from dancing does nothing to remedy discrimination against females. Discrimination is not remedied by more discrimination," the PLF statement said.

The lawsuit does not seek to affect the ability of school districts to have sex-specific sports. PLF said schools can establish both girls-only and boys-only basketball teams, for example, since that ensures equal opportunity.

"But as with any other type of discrimination, government needs an exceedingly persuasive reason for restricting athletic opportunities to just one sex," the law firm statement said.

In a statement to The Journal, PLF attorney Joshua Thompson said the timeline for the lawsuit resolution is unclear.

“The association has 21 days to answer the complaint. The case could go a number of different ways. We certainly hope that the association repeals the discriminatory rule, which they could do at any point. If they do so, we will drop our lawsuit. If they answer or move to dismiss, the litigation could take anywhere from 6 months to multiple years," Thompson said. "It’s just really difficult to estimate these things."

Freddie Linden said he hopes his case sets a national precedent.

"We are not only trying to change South Dakota, this law is in 20 other states. We are hoping to allow boys in all 20 states to dance. I am the voice for those boys," he said.

MMCRU I-Tech Center addresses workforce demands

MARCUS, Iowa -- In Matt Hansen's first year serving the industrial tech program at Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn High School in Marcus, he saw 22 students per day.

This year, while leading that area of the curriculum at MMCRU - the whole-grade merger involving MMC and Remsen-Union - Hansen instructs 105 students in grades 9-12. Additionally, he teaches shop at the middle school in Remsen, preparing seventh- and eighth-grade students for a future in a growing course of study that covers disciplines in woodworking, construction, welding, CAD drafting, cabinet making and, as of next fall, machining and more.

With that surge in involvement comes a demand for space, a demand met through the new I-Tech Center under construction at the high school in Marcus. When the state-of-the-art facility opens in August, Hansen will see his education space jump from 2,200 square feet to 10,000 square feet.

TGallagher / Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal 

Hunter Tentinger, a senior, welds during a class in the industrial tech classroom at MMCRU High School in Marcus, Iowa.

"The new I-Tech Center will completely change how we can do things," said Hansen, as he sounded off on the ability to construct items under one roof.

"We're working to prepare kids for the local workforce, as well as for their work in college and in workplaces all over the country," said Hansen, a 2010 graduate of West Monona High School and a 2014 graduate of Wayne State College. "We're seeking to turn out well-rounded tradesmen, mimicking the level of education you would see in post-secondary education, and giving them the best education possible while I have them."


Construction progresses at the new I-Tech center at MMCRU High School in Marcus, Iowa. The site, which features 10,000 square feet of classroom and office space, will open for the 2018-19 school year.

Hansen has a fan in Clay Leavitt, who helps lead sales efforts at Marcus Lumber, a business that seems to mirror the growth in the local school's industrial tech arena.

"What Matt is teaching makes a huge difference for anyone getting into the construction field," said Leavitt, who represents one of the 20-plus businesses serving on an advisory board for Hansen at the school. "We've seen a lot of benefits, not only from kids coming in here and knowing what they want for a project, but, long-term, in seeing many of them go on to work in construction or a similar profession."

Leavitt said Hansen's efforts at starting students off quickly by giving them experience at a young age has proved beneficial. "He starts them off as freshman and they get very good experience with their hands right away," said Leavitt, noting his firm has employed MMCRU students during the summer.

TGallagher / Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal 

Construction continues at the new I-Tech center at MMCRU High School in Marcus, Iowa. The site, which features 10,000 square feet of classroom and office space, will open for the 2018-19 school year.

MMCRU Superintendent of Schools Jan Brandhorst detailed the $3.5 million building project, which has also seen the addition -- and use -- of four new classrooms, space that was necessitated by predicted enrollment gains. Use of those classrooms began in January as work continued on the I-Tech Center.

"The I-Tech Center, which will open in the fall of 2018, has a classroom and lab space, then an office for our instructor, storage space and then work spaces for woodworking, metals and construction," Brandhorst said, pointing to an area on the blueprint where CNC machines will be stationed.

TGallagher / Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal 

Construction progresses at the new I-Tech center at MMCRU High School in Marcus, Iowa. The site, which features 10,000 square feet of classroom and office space, will open for the 2018-19 school year.

The project is funded via one-cent sales tax over the next 20 years.

"Our career and technical education program has blossomed under Matt Hansen," said Brandhorst, who broke into education 43 years ago in this same field. "There's a real need for workers that's been identified by employers in our region and Matt has led the charge to have our district help meet those needs."



Hansen, in fact, teaches from 7:30 a.m. until the final bell each day, working without a prep period in his quest to reach as many students as possible. His work at 7:30 a.m. occurs in a "Period Zero" class that meets prior to school. That welding program is a dual-credit offering whose students also receive credit from Northwest Iowa Area Community College in Sheldon.

The building addition is the first at the Marcus campus in a decade as the commons, kitchen and two classrooms were built in 2007-08, Brandhorst's third year at MMC.

"We needed classroom space as our elementary is growing and the I-Tech program is really expanding," he said.

Additionally, a greenhouse serving MMCRU is now operational and the school district began an FFA program one year ago, an outgrowth of the whole-grade sharing agreement.

Ground was broken on the new classrooms and the adjoining I-Tech Center in April 2017. CMBA Architects of Sioux City designed the facility, which boasts the MMCRU lettering along the front, or north side, wall featuring windows covering the full length of two stories.



"Construction has been on-time," said Brandhorst, who has announced his retirement, effective at the end of the fiscal year. "We were able to move into the classrooms during Christmas break. And we look forward to the I-Tech Center opening for our students in the fall."

Bruce Miller / ABC  

Amy Robach is an anchor with ABC's "Good Morning America."

Washington delegation returns to Siouxland with information, connections

SIOUX CITY -- Members of the Siouxland Washington delegation are traveling home Friday after two days of meetings with members of Congress and cabinet members. 

Barbara Sloniker, executive vice president of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce, which spearheaded the annual lobbying trip, said she was pleased with the outcome of this week's discussions and meetings.


"I think we made a lot of really good connections with the speakers," Sloniker said. 

The approximately 60-member group held several meetings Thursday, including appointments with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta and several members of Congress who represent the tri-state area. 

Among the Congressional leaders holding meetings Thursday was Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who told The Journal via phone Thursday afternoon that their discussions included workforce development, education, infrastructure and housing. 


"I think we have a pretty accurate picture of what the situation is in the community, so it helps us better assess the needs of the community compared to listening to one person today and one person tomorrow," he said.

The Siouxland delegation's main priorities this year included the region's labor shortage, infrastructure funding and housing policy. 

Regarding workforce development, Sloniker said leaders were impressed with what Siouxland schools are doing in the area of career and technical education. Four Sioux City Community School students who are a part of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps students were a part of the delegation and presented at the meetings. 

"All of the members we brought up that issue to were supportive of that education," she said. "Even more so the fact that our area is doing this already with career and technical education."  


Sioux City Councilman Dan Moore said he was pleased with the meetings with the legislators and officials, specifically noting a discussion on the labor shortage with Acosta that showed what the issue looks like nationwide. 

"Each and every one of them stressed how important it is that we show up, that we make the trip to D.C., that we give them our position papers," Moore said. "It's good to make the contacts and do the networking."