Braden Rabidoux had no idea how his life was about to change when his mother got a call from his school principal. Braden, an eighth-grader in Wisconsin’s Kiel Area School District, was the subject of a sexual harassment complaint and investigation, the principal told her.
“I was like, ‘What? Sexual harassment? What are you talking about?'” Braden’s mom, Rose Rabidoux, recalled to The Federalist. “Because when I think of sexual harassment, I think of rape. I think of inappropriate touching.”
Braden hadn’t been accused of any of these things. He hadn’t groped or stalked anybody or even made lewd comments.
The school was instead going after him and two other eighth-grade boys for using so-called “incorrect pronouns” for a female student who decided she wanted to be called “they” or “them.” According to the school, because an unknown complainant alleged that Braden had used feminine singular pronouns to refer to a female student, he was being investigated for sexual harassment under Title IX.
“When he told me that the sexual harassment allegations were for pronouns, I just was floored,” Rose said.
Rose told The Federalist that when the principal called her on that Monday to tell her about the allegations and ask if she was available to answer some questions with Braden the following day, the principal suggested he could just question Braden alone if Rose wasn’t available.
“I said, ‘Absolutely not,'” Rose said. “‘I don’t want him in there talking to you without me.'”
According to Luke Berg — deputy counsel for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which is representing the three boys and their families and sent a letter urging the school to drop the complaint — it appears the school district is inflating the scope of its own policies and Title IX. The latter is the part of the Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded educational settings. The school, however, is weaponizing it to conflate “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” with “sex.”
The district did not respond to a request for comment.
The ‘Parade of Horribles’
If this sounds familiar, it’s because the Biden administration is working to expand the meaning of “sex” in Title IX in the same manner on a nationwide scale. On his very first day in office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order directing his Department of Education to redefine “sex” in Title IX to mean “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.”
If Biden and his Democrat allies get their way, every public and charter school across the country will, instead of educating kids, be pouring their allotted taxpayer dollars into investigating the ones who don’t subscribe to the left’s orthodoxy on wrong pronouns or who accidentally use a student’s correct pronoun instead of their “preferred” false pronoun.
Berg said Biden’s Title IX push is “certainly related” to the Supreme Court’s erroneous 2020 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, wherein the court read “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” into the meaning of “sex” in Title VII. That part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is almost the same as Title IX but deals with employment instead of education. Biden cited the Bostock ruling in pushing for Title IX expansion.
“That actually was in one of the dissents in Bostock,” Berg told The Federalist. “Here is the parade of horribles that’s going to happen as a result of this ruling. And one of the parade of horribles listed … was that they’re going to interpret Title IX in such a way that ‘mispronouning’ is sexual harassment. And here we are.”
Biden’s expansion attempt in the educational sphere hasn’t become active regulation yet, however, meaning the Kiel School District’s “sexual harassment” investigation is of its own accord — and not even consistent with its own policies. According to school policy, so-called “mispronouning” doesn’t come close to the bar for sexual harassment, which typically means things like stalking, dating violence, unwanted or inappropriate touching, or quid pro quo sexual favors. Furthermore, the school isn’t even abiding by its own processes with regard to the investigation, despite its claims to the contrary.
“As a public school district, we are bound to follow all state and federal laws regarding bullying and harassment,” District Superintendent Brad Ebert wrote in an email to parents after the school attracted some media attention for the pronoun circus. “We have and will continue to comply with these obligations.”
The school, however, flouted its policies and Title IX from the very start. Although both require the school to notify the accused about the allegations before starting an investigation so the student has “sufficient time to prepare a response before any initial interview,” the district gave only a vague, one-page notice a day before seeking to interrogate the boys, letting them know simply that they were accused of “using incorrect pronouns.” According to WILL, the district began its investigation and conducted interviews without giving the students and their parents any more information or time to prepare.
Furthermore, according to Berg, the law and district policies require the school to immediately drop the complaint if the accusations, even if true, wouldn’t amount to sexual harassment. In this case, a complaint about “mispronouning” should have been dismissed outright.
Nobody knows whether the school will drop the complaint and investigation, but Rose noted that during her and Braden’s interview with the school principal, her son asked if this would be going on his permanent record.
“How is this going to affect college and scholarships?” she recalled him asking.
“He couldn’t answer,” Rose said of the principal’s response. “He just kind of stared at him blankly and shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘I don’t know.’ And I was floored.”
The whole ordeal has taken a toll on the middle-schoolers. Braden is still attending the school because his mother doesn’t want his academics to suffer from the incident, and the other two boys are now being homeschooled.
“It has them worried about things they shouldn’t have to worry about. It has them worried about going to school. It has them embarrassed. They don’t understand. They feel judged,” Rose said, noting that even though the boys have a lot of support from their fellow students, all this heat is coming from the administration. “Braden is struggling to go every day. He used to love school, and he doesn’t anymore.”
It’s an awful story, and one that, if it ends in disciplinary action for the boys, will most assuredly result in WILL filing a federal lawsuit. But this story is bigger than a legal battle. It’s bigger than Braden and his eighth-grade friends in one school district in one state with one disgruntled female student who wants to go by plural pronouns.
This story is a preview of exactly the kind of routine hostility we can expect for students all over the country, First Amendment be damned, if Biden and his bureaucrats successfully write “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” into the meaning of “sex” in education.
If they prevail, you could be the next one getting a phone call to let you know your child is a sexual harasser for discerning between the sexes and between singular and plural words.