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Wisconsin school district closes Title IX case against boys who used wrong pronouns

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The Wisconsin school district that opened a Title IX investigation against three middle-school boys accused of sexual harassment for using the wrong pronouns with another student has closed the case.

The Kiel Area School District announced Thursday it had "issued clear directives and expectations to all students involved in this matter for the purpose of preventing bullying and harassment and ensuring a safe and supportive learning environment for all of our students."

"Based on these actions, and pursuant to District policies and procedures, the School District considers this matter closed," the board of education said in a statement.

Controversy erupted last month when news broke that the school district had filed a Title IX complaint against three eighth grade boys who had not referred to one of their classmates by the student's preferred pronouns of "they/them." The district said that by refusing to use the student's preferred pronouns, the boys had sexually harassed their classmate under the Biden administration's interpretation of Title IX rules.

School officials faced several violent threats from people outraged by the investigation, including bomb threats against the school and other local government institutions. A California man was arrested for making a death threat against a school district staff member.

The parents of the accused boys hired the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative legal group, to defend their children against the accusation. The group sent a letter to the district in May arguing that the school had violated the boys' First Amendment rights and that the use of biologically correct pronouns does not constitute sexual harassment under Title IX or school policy.

In a June 2 follow-up letter, attorneys for the parents maintained that a Title IX investigation was inappropriate and that the case should be dismissed. Hours later, the district announced the matter had been "closed," a release from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty said.

"We are pleased that the Kiel Area School District has finally ended its misguided Title IX investigation," said WILL Deputy Counsel Luke Berg. "While the District’s statement attempts to reframe the investigation, it was always primarily about 'mispronouning.' The District may not be willing to admit it publicly, but it has recognized that it has no legal basis to demand that our clients refrain from 'mispronouning' other students.”

The Kiel school board's announcement defends members of the administration and staff "who have been criticized simply for carrying out the functions of their job."

While the school's Title IX investigation is closed, the Kiel Police Department said Friday that law enforcement investigations into the violent threats made against the school are ongoing.

Rose Rabidoux, the mother of one of the accused boys, expressed thankfulness that the matter was settled.

“While we are glad that the District has ended its investigation, this dispute should have never been escalated to this point. We expect the Kiel Area School District to ensure that this Title IX complaint is not on my son’s record," she said. "We are thankful to our friends, family, and community for their support.”

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