Posted BY: ET
A constitutional-rights law firm has given middle school officials in Kiel, Wisconsin, until May 23 to respond to its call to drop a sexual harassment complaint and investigation against three students who misgendered a female student who identifies as nonbinary.
Luke Berg, an attorney with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty—a nonprofit law firm that represents clients whose civil rights have been challenged—told The Epoch Times that the firm had initially given the school until May 20 to dismiss the complaint, but the deadline was extended over the weekend after a discussion with the school district’s attorney.
Under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sex-based discrimination in federally-funded schools is prohibited. However, Berg said using the unpreferred gender pronoun for someone doesn’t constitute sexual harassment.
“Nothing that’s been alleged comes even remotely close,” Berg said.
A Kiel Area School District official notified the parents of the three eighth-graders at Kiel Middle School in April that they had been charged with sexual harassment without specifying the circumstances surrounding the allegation.
Parent Rose Rabidoux and her son Braden went on Fox News with Berg to discuss the incident.
Without knowing the circumstances, Rabidoux said she feared the worst and didn’t know exactly what had taken place until “three or four days” later.
“And when I asked him what my son did, he said that he did not use the correct pronouns,” she said.
Braden himself said he’s worried about his future “because a charge like that on my record could shatter my chances at getting into a college when I grow up.”
Berg said the school should have first discussed the incident with everyone involved to try to work through the issue.
Title IX itself requires that the family provide a detailed report of the allegations, which he said the school didn’t do before interviewing the students.
“You need the detailed allegation so that you know how to prepare and respond to what you’re being charged with,” Berg said. “None of the families had that.”
After the students were interviewed, the families asked for a formal complaint. They received a one-page statement alleging the use of the incorrect pronoun with a page and a half of notes from a music teacher describing “a few minor incidents in the classroom,” Berg said.
“The clear theory of the school district is once a student has told other students what their pronouns are, any misuse of the pronouns after that is punishable,” Berg said.
Described in the music teacher’s notes is a student defending another student’s right not to have to use the student’s preferred pronouns, which the school views as sexual harassment, Berg said.
Berg said school administrators can’t force minor students to comply with preferred modes of speaking, and that they shouldn’t be investigating eighth-graders with a sexual harassment complaint that is, in reality, a violation of free speech, he said.
According to Title IX procedures, the principal has 90 days to complete the investigation.