Wisconsin middle schoolers accused of sexual harassment for using wrong pronouns
Three students at a Wisconsin middle school are facing allegations of sexual harassment under Title IX after they repeatedly refused to use “they/them” pronouns when addressing a fellow student.
Attorneys for the Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty demanded that the Kiel Area School District stop the Title IX investigation into the three male students at Kiel Middle School.
“The complaint against these boys, and the District’s ongoing investigation, are wholly inappropriate and should be immediately dismissed,” the institute wrote in a letter to administrators. “The mere use of biologically correct pronouns not only does not constitute sexual harassment under Title IX or the District’s own policy, it is also speech protected by the First Amendment.”
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The attorneys’ letter accused the school district of stretching Title IX to police student speech and added that the students were themselves subjected to yelling and name-calling for refusing to use nonbiological pronouns, even as administrators failed to use the student’s preferred pronouns.
“The use of ‘they/them’ pronouns, in particular, is awkward, grammatically incorrect, and, until recently, unheard of,” the letter says. “Indeed, illustrating how difficult it is to refer to a single person as a ‘they/them,’ our clients have frequently heard the Title IX investigator, teachers, other staff, and students refer to the student in question using she/her pronouns.”
In a press release, the institute’s deputy counsel, Luke Berg, blasted the district’s actions for setting a “terrible precedent” that would have “enormous ramifications.”
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“School administrators can’t force minor students to comply with their preferred mode of speaking,” Berg said. “And they certainly shouldn’t be slapping eighth graders with Title IX investigations for what amounts to protected speech.”
The district did not respond to a request for comment.