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Judge dismisses latest Title IX lawsuit about University of North Dakota women’s hockey team

Judge Peter Welte of the U.S. District Court for North Dakota, ruled the women do not have jurisdiction to file lawsuit against UND as non-students.

UND Women's hockey
North Dakota's Melissa Jacques (13) celebrates her game-winning overtime goal with Alyssa Wiebe, Randi Motsko (15), Kelly Lewis and Cassandra Flanagan (16) as Bemidji State goalie Zuzana Tomcikova lays in the net during a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game at John Glas Fieldhouse in Bemidji. North Dakota won 4-3.
Bemidji Pioneer file photo

GRAND FORKS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by four North Dakota women , alleging that UND violated their Title IX protections by eliminating its women’s hockey team.

Judge Peter D. Welte, chief justice of the U.S. district court for North Dakota, sided with NDUS attorneys, dismissing the suit on the basis of lack of jurisdiction.

The former high school hockey players — Emily Becker, Calli Forsberg, Morgan Stenseth and Maya Tellmann — from Devils Lake (N.D.) and Grand Forks Red River high schools, claimed that UND failed to uphold its Title IX obligations, a federally funded initiative designed to prevent gender-based discrimination in institutions of higher education.

The players claimed UND’s elimination of its women’s hockey program following the 2016-17 season adversely impacted their education and hockey careers by leading them to attend universities elsewhere.

Court documents say Forsberg, specifically, was recruited to play for the Fighting Hawks in 2016, but had her offer rescinded the following year when UND eliminated its women’s hockey team. She eventually enrolled at Bemidji State University, and competed for its women’s hockey team.

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According to court documents the defendant, the North Dakota University System, argued the plaintiffs do not have legal standing to file a Title IX complaint against UND, due to the fact that none of the four women currently attend the university. In his ruling, Welte said the players' claims of malfeasance against UND and NDUS is "conjectural and hypothetical, and thus insufficient to hold legal standing."

UND spokesman David Dodds said the university received notice of Welte's ruling on Monday.

"UND is committed to Title IX, and has always maintained that our actions were in compliance," Dodds said in a statement emailed to the Herald on Tuesday. "UND is pleased with the Court’s decision."

Another separate lawsuit involving the women's hockey team was dismissed in December 2021 . A lawyer representing the former UND players moved to voluntarily dismiss the case then. That lawsuit was dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning another suit could be filed in the future.

Banish covers news pertaining to K-12 and higher education, as well as county commission coverage.
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