The Minnesota State High School League is appealing a court decision that restored athletic eligibility to an Ashby High School senior who repeated a grade because of a learning disability.
Deklin Goeden's family, which accused the league of illegal discrimination by reason of a learning disability, received a preliminary injunction against the league on Dec. 28 from Hennepin County District Judge Jacqueline Regis. The ruling cleared the way for Goeden to pursue competing in track and field and clay target shooting this spring.
The league's appeal, filed Jan. 5, asks whether Reis's ruling "was an abuse of discretion or clearly erroneous" as well as "whether the District Court's decision is contrary to the record or is based on an erroneous view of the law."
Under the league's Bylaw 110, which addresses eligibility matters, student-athletes are allowed 12 consecutive semesters (six consecutive years) of eligibility beginning in seventh grade. Because he repeated seventh grade due to a learning disability, Goeden used up his eligibility and was told he must sit out his senior year.
Goeden's family pursued the case to the league's eligibility committee, which denied the family's appeal.
Family attorney Justin Page then sued the league in October, leading to Regis's ruling that made him eligible to play sports.
League executive director Erich Martens wrote in a Jan. 12 e-mail that "the League does not comment on threatened, pending or ongoing litigation."
According to the Dec. 28 ruling, the Minnesota Human Rights Acts states that it is an unfair discriminatory practice "for a place of public accommodation not to make reasonable accommodation to the known physical, sensory, or mental disability of a disabled person."
The Goedens said Deklin's learning disabilities make mathematics rationalization and reading comprehension difficult. Andrea Goeden, Deklin's mother, said the family elected to have him repeat seventh grade because feedback from the school indicated he was "at a fifth-grade level versus being ready for eighth-grade."
The Goedens were unaware of Bylaw 110 at the time. They were not notified until December 2019 of Deklin's eligibility dilemma.
Page said this week that court proceedings related to the league's recent appeal likely "won't be before late spring or early summer" after Goeden graduates and is done competing in spring sports.
"We're hoping to get a good ruling," he said, "and make it easier with kids with disabilities to get accommodations from the league."