PIERRE, S.D. — A South Dakota youth rodeo program could change its separate boys and girls events to comply with federal law prohibiting sex discrimination.

Rodeo supporters and some state lawmakers have long opposed the U.S. Agriculture Department’s ruling since the 1970s that the 4-H rodeo violates the law known as Title IX.

“Rodeo is a diverse sport, and inherent differences between the sexes can create unfair advantages,” Republican U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota told the Capital Journal Wednesday. “The USDA needs to rethink this and give youth rodeo an exemption from Title IX requirements.”

The 4-H national headquarters notified South Dakota’s 4-H rodeo that it must follow federal regulations by fall or it will be removed from the federally funded 4-H program. The USDA is in charge of 4-H in the state, where the 4-H rodeo program is only one of two in the country.

The rodeo has a long-held practice of hosting “boys” events, which include riding bulls and broncs, separate from “girls” events, such as goat-roping and ribbon-roping.

4-H officials suggested changing the names of events to “Division I” and “Division II” instead of “boys” and “girls.”

“There will be unintended consequences,” said Casey Cowan, who has long been involved in the rodeo. “You will be hurting the young people you are trying to help.”

He noted that an issue could arise for pick-up men and bullfighters, who are responsible for helping bronc and bull riders dismount. It could be viewed as inappropriate touching when involving female riders, Cowan said.

4-H leaders will set up a teleconference with the program’s headquarters for rodeo supporters like Cowan to express their concerns. But some have threatened to leave 4-H and form a new youth rodeo program, according to 4-H officials.


Information from: Pierre Capital Journal, http://www.capjournal.com