Three Wisconsin middle school boys learned Friday their school district dropped Title IX sexual harassment charges against them for “mispronouning.”
The boys attend Kiel Middle School, a school in the Kiel Area School District. Officials of the district, which teaches about 4,000 students, alleged that “mispronouning” constitutes sexual harassment under the Title IX section of federal education law.
A formal complaint of sexual harassment was filed March 29 after an incident in the middle school’s general music classroom. According to the mother of one boy charged, a girl was using profanity at one of the boys when her son interceded. He informed the girl that just because she wanted to be referred to using the pronouns “they” and “them,” she could not force his friend to use them.
District Administrator Brad Ebert did not return several calls for comment over the last three days, so it is unclear if closing the investigation means the boys face no further consequences.
Madison, Wisconsin, law firm BoardmanClark attorney Tess O’Brien represented the district. O’Brien did not return several calls over the last three days requesting comment. It is unclear what needed to be investigated since the boys did not deny referring to the girl as “she” or “her.”
“He doesn’t have to use proper pronouns, it’s his constitutional right to not use,” 13-year-old Braden Rabidoux said, according to his mother, “you can’t make him say things.”
Rosemary Rabidoux expressed shock when she received a phone call from the school’s principal, Deborah Sixel, informing her that Braden was being investigated for sexual harassment.
The perplexed mother told Fox11 News she did not understand how her soft-spoken son could be facing a charge like that. “I’m thinking, sexual harassment?” Rabidoux said. “That’s rape, that’s inappropriate touching, that’s incest.”
“What has my son done?”
When she learned the basis for the charge was “mispronouning,” she did not know what to think. “I thought it wasn’t real,” Rabidoux declared. “I thought this has got to be a gag, a joke — one has nothing to do with the other.”
Kiel Area School District officials took a different view. “The KASD prohibits all forms of bullying and harassment in accordance with all laws, including Title IX,” an official said in a statement.
News of the sexual harassment charges led to at least six bomb threats, forcing school officials to cancel in-person classes and return to virtual learning.
The school district Friday published a letter to the community announcing the end of the investigation.
WILL attorneys indicate they want the district to go further and remove the charges from the academic records of the boys involved.
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