In a case that illustrates the madness surrounding the governmentwide push for transgender rights, a public school district in Wisconsin charged three boys with sexual harassment for failing to use a female classmate’s chosen pronouns (they/them). The Kiel Area School District, situated in a town of about 4,000, accused the three eighth graders of “Mispronouning” in a music classroom. Then the school launched a complaint under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal funds. In a Notice of a Formal Complaint of Sexual Harassment to each boy, the district writes the following: “After being informed that a student’s preferred pronouns were ‘they/them’ [name redacted] engaged in conduct based on gender identity toward the student including using incorrect pronouns and conduct that was harassing in nature.”
Fortunately, a conservative group, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), got involved and the school district recently dropped its federal investigation under immense pressure from the community and attorneys at the legal nonprofit. Since the “mispronouning” and subsequent investigation occurred weeks ago, local news outlets have reported that the school received bomb threats. “After the story became local and national news, the district received numerous threats referencing the Title IX investigation,” according to one local story. The article continues: “Due to bomb threats, the school district went virtual through the end of the school year. The threats then expanded to city hall, businesses, facilities and homes of school officials. The messages were emailed to police, news media and school district members. The district was forced to delay its graduation ceremony out of concern for the community’s safety.” In another report a local LGBTQ advocate said that “homophobia, transphobia and anti-LGBTQ violence exists in all communities.”
The reality is that Title IX usually covers serious crimes such as sexual assault, rape, stalking and inappropriate touching. “None of that—or anything even close to it—was alleged in the complaint,” WILL, the charity representing the boys pro bono, points out in a statement. “While there is a catchall for “unwelcome conduct” that is “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to education,” the mere use of a biologically correct pronoun, without significantly more, does not count, and if it did, it would violate the First Amendment.” The legal group proceeds to write that schools can and should deal with teasing and bullying but the use of incorrect pronouns alone is not punishable. The school district also failed to follow its own policy and Title IX procedures by not providing a detailed notice of the allegations before questioning the minors. “The District initiated its investigation and conducted interviews without first providing additional details or giving the boys and their families time to prepare,” according to WILL.
Further illustrating the absurdity of the case, the attorneys representing the boys reveal in a May letter to the district superintendent that “mispronouning” doesn’t constitute sexual harassment under Title IX because gender identity is not even included within the definition of sex in the decades-old measure. Not surprisingly, the Department of Education is currently working to amend Title IX to add it. None of the other conduct described in the statement from the music teacher comes remotely close to sexual harassment, the boys’ lawyers write, adding that the statement acknowledges the whole class expressed frustration with remembering pronouns. “At most, the statement describes a few isolated incidents of teasing and arguments between the 8th grade students in question,” WILL attorneys write. The letter also discloses that the student in question has also teased the boys by calling them numerous names and yelling at them for not using they/them pronouns even when the boys were not talking about her.
This month the school district finally dropped the case against the boys, writing in a letter to the school community that it “considers this matter closed.” The letter mentions the media attention and threats related to the case and reiterates that the Kiel Area School District prohibits all forms of bullying and harassment in accordance with all laws and “will continue to support ALL students regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, creed, pregnancy, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, sex (including transgender status, change of sex or gender identity), or physical, mental, emotional or learning disability (“Protected Classes”) in any of its student programs and activities, consistent with Board policy and the law.”