Three Wisconsin middle schoolers face accusations of sexual harassment for “misgendering” a classmate.
The Kiel Area School District launched a Title IX investigation against Braden Rabidoux, 13, and two other middle schoolers for allegedly harassing another student by repeatedly refusing to refer to them by the pronouns they/them.
Rabidoux’s mother told Fox News Digital the school’s principal initially informed her on April 25 that her son was being accused of sexual harassment but received no further explanation for days. She later received the complaint and sought to defend her son.
“This is middle school. These guys are kids, they’re learning how to interact with each other, and they’ve been taught all their life to see a girl and use pronouns ‘she’ and ‘her.’ They don’t understand using plural pronouns for one student,” she said to Fox News Digital.
She added, “Schools should be focused on education, on math and science and social studies, and not … pronouns.”
KASD maintains that the “misgendering” may have violated federal Title IX regulations.
Per NBC 26, district administrator Brad Ebert sent an email to parents and defended the district’s actions:
“Under federal law, when the District receives a report of harassment based on sex, including gender identity, the District is obligated to act. Specifically, the District must reach out to the individual allegedly harassed, offer supportive services, and provide information about Title IX. If the individual files a formal compliant (sic) of sexual harassment or if the District Title IX coordinator files a complaint on their behalf, the District must initiate the Title IX grievance process, which includes a fact finding investigation, a determination as to whether the conduct occurred and constituted sexual harassment, and a right to appeal.”
All three boys’ families secured the representation of the non-profit law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL).
WILL lawyers wrote a letter to district leaders, stating in part, “Sexual harassment, as defined in both Title IX and the 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 here.”
Deputy counsel Luke Berg, a WILL attorney, said to Fox News Digital, “Sexual harassment covers really egregious stuff, not simply using the so-called wrong pronoun. The school’s theory seems to be that any use of a wrong pronoun is automatically punishable speech under Title IX, and if that is truly their position, that is a truly egregious First Amendment violation.”
WILL is asking the district to shut down the investigation and dismiss the complaint.
District leaders had planned to host a school board meeting to discuss the case on Monday, May 23. However, a bomb threat that day and a separate bomb threat on Tuesday prompted officials to evacuate their schools and reschedule the meeting.
The school board opted to host a virtual meeting on Wednesday, May 25.