Parents sue Minnesota State High School League over spectator restrictions

The lawsuit says member schools have never allowed MSHSL the “authority to control school property or otherwise dictate attendees at sporting events.”

Chanhassen High School football field. (MSHSL/Twitter)

In a civil lawsuit filed Oct. 5, the parents of four Minnesota high school athletes sued the Minnesota State High School League over spectator restrictions regarding fall sports.

The high school students live in Rockford, Cold Spring, Richmond and Starbuck. All four have participated in sports since a young age and are juniors or seniors in high school.

The parents of these students have filed an official complaint against MSHSL. The lawsuit states, “The MSHSL and its Board did not learn any lesson from their ill-conceived attempt to cancel fall high school football and volleyball seasons.” The lawsuit also says MSHSL has ignored both the law and updated guidelines from the Department of Health and the Department of Education.

The plaintiffs’ goal is to “hold the MSHSL to its own advertised beliefs and enforce its own rules and Bylaws.” The parents have claimed MSHSL has not done this.

The League’s “Beliefs” include “collaborative” parent relationships, serving as role models for students, and essential “compliance with school, community and League rules.” The plaintiffs say the League has not followed its own rules, namely those specifying the rights of individual schools to control home events and govern attendees at those events.

The lawsuit says member schools have never allowed MSHSL the “authority to control school property or otherwise dictate attendees at sporting events.” The lawsuit goes on to say that, being a “Bylaw” of the League, the Board is not permitted to change this rule without approval by the Representative Assembly.

The lawsuit also brings to light the fact that, when football and volleyball seasons were slated for spring, practice periods were still allowed this fall without any explanation as to why this was not considered “unsafe.”

The Aug. 4 Board meeting in which football and volleyball seasons were moved to spring did not consist of any reviewing of the MDH or MDE guidelines, according to the plaintiffs’ lawsuit. A Board member that day asked if the Board would be getting “any guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health, or have we?”

The lawsuit also addresses the Board’s Sept. 21 meeting regarding spectator rules at events. MDH had published an updated version of “COVID-19 Sports Guidance for Youth and Adults” on Sept. 18, which “did not prohibit sports or spectators.”

MDH’s guidelines allow up to 1,500 spectators, separated by sections of 250, for outdoor events. The guidelines allow up to 250 or 25% capacity, whichever is less, for indoor venues. On the contrary, according to the plaintiffs’ lawsuit, MSHSL is allowing up to 250 spectators for outdoor events and is allowing no spectators for indoor events.

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