Last month, the right-wing legal organization Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) sent a letter and mounted a media campaign to pressure the Kiel Area School District to end a Title IX investigation into three eighth grade boys who repeatedly misgendered a classmate who goes by they/them pronouns. WILL was hired to intervene and take the case public by the parents of the boys under investigation. In the now public letter, WILL contended that “using incorrect pronouns doesn’t constitute sexual harassment under Title IX or the school district’s policy. It also says the boys were within their First Amendment right to free speech and the district didn’t follow the proper procedure of a Title IX investigation when it failed to provide detailed notice of the allegations before starting an investigation,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The resulting media campaign included appearances by the lawyers, one parent, and one of the students on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News Show, Newsmax, and an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. This media bullying resulted in extremists making six bomb threats against the district, Kiel City Hall, the pulic library, the private homes of district employees, roads, and utility companies in the area. In reaction to these extreme threats of violence, the district took school virtual for the remainder of the year, a disruption to kids who have had so many school disruptions in the past two years, and they canceled the annual Memorial Day parade. They also ended their Title IX investigation, stating that they handled it with the boys privately.
WILL publicly condemned the threats, but celebrated when the investigation was closed. Deputy Counsel Luke Berg released a statement saying, “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.” He released this in a statement despite a clear ruling in 2020 from the Supreme Court prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.