Title IX has created high school sports segregation that's preventing one student from bull riding--just because she's a girl.
Sixteen-year-old Kenna Hazen dreams of being a professional bull rider. But Title IX is stopping Hazen from competing.
Lane Yeager, president of the Montana High School Rodeo Association (MHSRA), said the school is only abiding by the law.
Title IX, a federal law passed in 1972 under the Education Amendments Act, fights for equal opportunities for all genders in sports--but particularly aimed at debunking the stereotypes surrounding women in athletics. The mandate reads:
"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."
But in order to enact this law, some limitations were put in place--limitations that appear paradoxical in situations like Hazen's. The law requires that there be an equal number of male and female sports offered.
"Right now, there are the same number of events for boys and for girls (through MHSRA), so if we open up to where girls are allowed to ride bulls, then boys would need to start barrel racing or goat tying. We're not sure they're ready to open that door yet."
Hazen went on to say:
"You'd think that Montana being a well-known rodeo state...you'd think they would allow more people to ride, more girls to ride."
Female bull riders have fought for decades to have the right to compete, including Jonnie Jonckowski, two-time World Bull Riding Champion. Jonckowski's battle to have cowgirls and cowboys viewed as equals is slated for its own big screen debut in "Bullrider: The Movie," a screenplay crafted by Malissa Daniel which is currently seeking a production team.
Jonckowski has said:
"When you choose this sport to be in, especially as a woman, you better be darn prepared to get into it mentally and physically because you're gonna be judged from the second you walk into that rodeo."
Even in high school, Hazen is faced with gender segregation in sports. She travels thousands of miles outside of Billings, Montana to find a rodeo she can ride in, something Jonckowski can relate to all too well.
Hazen's fight to ride isn't just for herself, either. She rides for her best friend, Chance Campbell, who was killed in a car accident in 2016. In addition to riding insignia that reads "Ride for Chance," Hazen makes a point to wear pink for breast cancer awareness while she's on a bull.
The color pink also gives a shout out to women to fight for their dreams. Hazen says it shouldn't matter if she's a girl or a boy. Both genders fall off the bull and risk breaking bones.
Hazen just wants to ride.
Has gender segregation in equestrian sports affected you? Share your story with us in the comments below.
All photos via KULR 8 News.
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