A Wisconsin school district has accused three middle school boys of sexual harassment.
The supposed sexual harassment? Calling a student by their biological pronoun in March — instead of calling her “they” and “them” as she requested, according to WLUK-TV.
School district officials surprised the boys’ parents in April when they told them that the district would be charging their sons for sexual harassment under Title IX.
The federal civil rights law, among other things, prohibits gender-based harassment through name-calling in educational institutions receiving federal funding.
“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,” Rosemary Rabidoux, the mother of one of the boys, told WLUK-TV.
“I immediately went into shock. I’m thinking, sexual harassment? That’s rape, that’s inappropriate touching, that’s incest.”
“[The investigating principal] said he’s being allegedly charged with sexual harassment for not using proper pronouns,” Rabidoux said. “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.”
Rabidoux said that her son was standing up for a friend a girl was attacking for not using her preferred pronouns when he got accused of sexual harassment.
“She had been screaming at one of Braden’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 said.
“Braden 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,'” Rabidoux said.
According to Rabidoux, the girl revealed her preferred pronouns earlier this year, but the new pronouns “they” and “them” were confusing to her son.
“It’s plural. It doesn’t make sense to him … So, I told him to call them by their names,” Rabidoux said, WITN-TV reported.
The parents are working with an attorney from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty to seek justice for the boys.
“It’s not sexual harassment under Title IX, under their own policy, under federal law, and it’s probably a First Amendment violation. Almost certainly, if that’s their theory, that solely using the wrong pronoun, that that would be a First Amendment violation,” said Luke Berg, the attorney representing the boys, according to Fox News.
The school district turned down a request for comment from WBAY-TV, citing a policy of refusing to comment on student affairs.
Instead, the Kiel Area School District sent this statement to the outlet: “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. We do not comment on any student matters.”
Berg told WBAY-TV that should the school district not clear the boys’ records and choose to punish them, they will take legal action against the district.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.