Wisconsin Principal Sues 8th Graders for Using Wrong Pronouns

Legal action likely for students defending their First Amendment rights.
Behind School Boy in Class
Taylor Wilcox, Unsplash
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A Wisconsin school district is under fire after it launched a Title IX investigation against three 8th grade boys for allegedly refusing to use “They/Them” pronouns in reference to another student.

Rosemary Rabidoux, the mother of one of the accused boys, who attend Kiel Middle School, says the district launched a sexual harassment investigation in addition to the Title IX complaint.

“I received a phone call from the principal over at the elementary school, forewarning me; letting me know that I was going to be receiving an email with sexual harassment allegations against my son,” Rabidoux told local outlet FOX 11 News Friday. 

“I immediately went into shock. I’m thinking, sexual harassment? That’s rape, that’s inappropriate touching, that’s incest,” Rabidoux continued. “What has my son done?”

“(The investigating principal) said he’s being allegedly charged with sexual harassment for not using proper pronouns,” added Rabidoux. “I thought it wasn’t real. I thought this has got to be a gag, a joke – one has nothing to do with the other.”

According to Rabidoux’s account of one of the events, “she had been screaming at one of [Rabidoux’s son]’s friends to use proper pronouns, calling him profanity, and this friend is very soft-spoken, and kind of just sunk down into his chair. [Rabidoux’s son] finally came up, defending him, saying ‘He doesn’t have to use proper pronouns, it’s his constitutional right to not use, you can’t make him say things.’”

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) has already gotten involved on Rabidoux’s side. 

“Sexual harassment, as defined in both Title IX and the Kiel Area School District’s policy, typically covers things like rape, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, inappropriate touching, and quid pro quo sexual favors. None of that—or anything even close to it—is alleged in the complaint,” WILL said 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. Schools of course can and should deal with teasing and bullying, but using so-called ‘incorrect pronouns’ alone is not punishable, without more,” the statement continued. 

The Kiel Area School District, however, is holding its ground. They issued the following statement to Local 5 media:

“The KASD prohibits all forms of bullying and harassment in accordance with all laws, including Title IX, 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; this is consistent with school board policy.”

The three students’ parents say they expect a response from the school by next Friday. If the charges are not dropped, further legal action is likely.  

Garion Frankel
Garion Frankel is a graduate student at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service with a concentration in education policy and management. He is a Young Voices contributor, and Chalkboard Review’s breaking news reporter.

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