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American News May 24, 2022 6:36 PM EST

Wisconsin middle school evacuated after bomb threat amid pronoun controversy

The threat follows the lodging of a Title IX sexual harassment complaint against three middle school students who allegedly used the wrong pronouns while addressing another student.

Wisconsin middle school evacuated after bomb threat amid pronoun controversy
Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

A middle school in Wisconsin received a bomb threat on Monday, as police investigate "threatening communications" toward School District staff that allegedly came in response to a Title IX sexual harassment investigation involving three students that refused to use another student’s preferred pronouns.

The threat was made in regards to Kiel Middle School, with that school, as well as the elementary and high school being evacuated as well, according to WBAY.

Parents were able to pick up their children at Kiel City Hall, with buses being made available to bring children home if they weren’t able to be picked up. Classes were also canceled for the following day.

Superintendent Brad Ebert stated that all students and staff were safe following the threat.

"I just wish everyone would calm down and start taking so we can try and resolve these issues peacefully and the anger and hatred that’s being spread on this issue is really disheartening," Kiel Police Department Chief David Funkhouser said.

The police department has requested the assistance of the State Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to assist in investigating threats.

"We would love to bring the people responsible for making these threats to justice. Regardless of how you feel about the situation, there’s better ways to handle crisis problems and issues than acting in this behavior, this manner," Funkhouser said.

Funkhouser said earlier on Monday that additional patrols would be walking around school buildings due to communications he called "extremely vulgar, hateful, and disturbing."

"Our actions are in response to the hateful comments expressed to the staff of the schools, and we proactively increased our presence in and around district buildings and grounds," says Funkhouser.

In response, Funkhouser requested that the Kiel School Board either postpone their meeting, which was scheduled to take place later that day, or hold a virtual meeting.

In a statement from the board, they opted to move the meeting to May 25, to be held in a virtual capacity.

"On behalf of the Kiel Area School District Board of Education, in light of recent attention brought to the school district and the volatility of the situation, law enforcement is concerned for the safety of all involved, including staff, citizens and board members, and have recommended to the KASD Board of Education to cancel/postpone the board meeting that was scheduled for Monday, May 23, 2022," the board said is a statement obtained by WBAY.

"The board met today and decided to move the meeting to Wednesday, May 25, 2022 at 4 pm. This will be a virtual only meeting. There will not be an onsite meeting that day," the statement added.

Funkhouser said he hopes that the additional time will allow for people to "cool off," and "hopefully allow for logical, rational, and meaningful dialogue to occur."

The threat follows the lodging of a Title IX sexual harassment complaint against three middle school students who allegedly used the wrong pronouns while addressing another student.

The student in question reportedly requested to be referred to as "they" and "them."

The parents have requested through a letter from their attorney that the charges be dropped immediately.

"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," Luke Berg with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty said. "This is a really gross application of Title IX sexual harassment charges. Sexual harassment covers really egregious stuff, not using the so-called wrong pronoun."

"Eighth-graders shouldn’t be subjected to this kind of investigation or this type of reputational harm for something that on its face clearly doesn’t violate Title IX in sexual harassment. Their own policy says that if on the face of the complaint the conduct, even if proven, wouldn’t amount to sexual harassment it should be immediately dismissed, and that’s what should have happened here and it didn’t," Berg said.

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