Three middle school students in Wisconsin are being investigated for sexual harassment after they allegedly referred to classmates by their wrong pronouns.
The Kiel Area School District in Kiel, Wisconsin, between Green Bay and Milwaukee, has filed a Title IX complaint against three Kiel Middle School eighth graders.
Rosemary Rabidoux, mother of one of the accused, disputes the complaint made against her 13-year-old son.
"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 Fox 17 News in Wisconsin.
"I immediately went into shock. I'm thinking, 'Sexual harassment? That's rape, that's inappropriate touching, that's incest.' What has my son done?"
Rabidoux added: "[The investigating principal] said he's being allegedly charged with sexual harassment for not using proper pronouns. ... 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 the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), the group defending the accused students, a peer at Kiel Middle School announced in March they wanted to be addressed by the "they/them" pronoun combination.
Roughly a month later, Rabidoux's son — "Son A" — had an encounter with the person requesting the "they/them" pronoun, she said.
Another student "had been screaming at one of [Son A'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 told Fox 17 while recalling her son's recollection of events.
"[Son A] 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.'"
After recalling that exchange, Rabidoux said that her son wasn't attacking the anti-LGBTQ+ community.
"Not at all. Not at all," Rabidoux said. "My children have been raised to love everybody equally."
The WILL group asserts that another student's misuse of pronouns does not go against the Kiel school district's policy.
It's also not a Title IX-type violation.
"Title IX sexual harassment typically covers things like rape, dating violence, quid pro quo sexual favors — really egregious stuff," said WILL deputy counsel Luke Berg. "There's nothing even remotely close to that alleged in this case.
"The charge against students for sexual harassment is an extreme abuse of the Title IX process. It's totally inappropriate and is totally being mishandled by the school district."
Also, on Thursday via Facebook, Berg had an additional comment about his clients' case.
"School administrators can't force minor students to comply with their preferred mode of speaking. And they certainly shouldn't be slapping eighth graders with Title IX investigations for what amounts to protected speech. This is a terrible precedent to set, with enormous ramifications."
On Friday afternoon, Newsmax contacted Collin Roth, WILL's director of communications.
Roth told Newsmax there are "no updates" to report on the sexual harassment complaint against the three Kiel eighth graders.
He also said that WILL sent a letter on Thursday to school district officials, with the expectation it warranted "a response" by next Friday, May 20.
In a statement provided to WLUK-TV, the Kiel school district said:
"The KASD prohibits all forms of bullying and harassment in accordance with all laws, including Title IX," and that it will "continue to support ALL students regardless of sex (including transgender status, change of sex or gender identity)."
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