"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, a parent of one of the accused, told Fox 11 News last week.
"I immediately went into shock. I’m thinking, sexual harassment? That’s rape, that’s inappropriate touching, that’s incest" Rabidoux continued. "What has my son done?"
But none of the concerns Rabidoux had were at issue. Instead, her 13-year-old son, Braden, was accused of using incorrect pronouns to address another student at Kiel Middle School.
"(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."
Now her son and two other boys are being charged by school officials with Title IV violations, which prohibits gender-based harassment.
The incident in question reportedly took place in March, when a student announced a preference of "they" and "them" to identify them.
But Rabidoux said her son was merely sticking up for one of his friends.
"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.’"
The mother told ABC 2 News that the new pronoun preference also caused confusion for her son, with her instructing him to just address the student by their name instead.
"It’s plural. It doesn’t make sense to him. I said so, I told him to call them by their names." Rabidoux said.
Now the parents are calling on the charges to be dismissed through an attorney with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.
"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.
Brad Ebert, the school district's superintendent, told ABC 2 that they do not comment on student matters.
"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," Ebert said.
Ebert did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.