Wisconsin Files Complaints Against Three Students Who Refused to Use Approved “Pronouns”

Conflicts over pronoun use have been rising around the country. There is a potentially important free speech case developing in Wisconsin. In Kiel, Wisconsin, three eighth graders are facing a Title IX complaint due to their failure to use plural pronouns “they/them” to refer to a single student. Indeed, it is reminiscent of the recent litigation involving a teacher in Loudoun County, Virginia. When the litigation involving teacher Byron “Tanner” Cross was unfolding, I noted that the most difficult such case for the district would be to impose such rules on students. This seems to be precisely that case in Wisconsin.

According to reports, the students allege that they were subject to verbal attacks for refusing to use the approved pronouns.

Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty demanded that the district stop the Title IX investigation. They assert that “[t]he mere use of biologically correct pronouns not only does not constitute sexual harassment under Title IX or the District’s own policy, it is also speech protected by the First Amendment.”

The pronoun controversy is mired in deep-seated religious and free speech issues. Many object to the use of such pronouns for reasons ranging from religious convictions to simple grammar. There is room for accommodation in allowing students and teachers to use first or last names. However, some pronoun use will inevitably occur. The question is whether the district can compel students to adopt such usage.

We discussed how Shawnee State recently settled a case brought by a professor over the compelled use of pronouns.

The Sixth Circuit noted that, as stated in Speech First, Inc. v. Schlissel, 939 F.3d 756, 761 (6th Cir. 2019), “Universities have historically been fierce guardians of intellectual debate and free speech.”  It reversed a district court’s ruling by Judge Dlott that a professor’s speech in the classroom is not protected by the First Amendment. Accordingly, it held that “Meriwether has plausibly alleged that Shawnee State violated his First Amendment rights by compelling his speech or silence and casting a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom, his free-speech claim may proceed.”

Adopting a position similar to the Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Circuits, the appellate panel ruled:

“[O]ur court has rejected as ‘totally unpersuasive’ ‘the argument that teachers have no First Amendment rights when teaching, or that the government can censor teacher speech without restriction.’ Hardy v. Jefferson Cmty. Coll., 260 F.3d 671, 680 (6th Cir. 2001). And we have recognized that ‘a professor’s rights to academic freedom and freedom of expression are paramount in the academic setting.’ Bonnell v. Lorenzo, 241 F.3d 800, 823 (6th Cir. 2001); see Dambrot v. Cent. Mich. Univ., 55 F.3d 1177, 1188–89 (6th Cir. 1995). Simply put, professors at public universities retain First Amendment protections at least when engaged in core academic functions, such as teaching and scholarship. See Hardy, 260 F.3d at 680.”

The ruling is a major recognition and defense of free speech rights for faculty in classrooms.

The Wisconsin case does not involve an employee but students.

In 2020, the Department of Education confirmed in a letter to a member of Congress that:

“By itself, refusing to use transgender students’ preferred pronouns is not a violation of Title IX and would not trigger a loss of funding or other sanctions. To the extent any prior OCR subregulatory guidance, field instructions, or communications are inconsistent with this approach, they are inoperative. However, sex-based harassment, including that predicated on sex stereotyping, is covered by Title IX if it is sufficiently serious to deny or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from an education program or activity. Thus, harassing a student-including acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility-based on the student’s failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity can constitute discrimination on the basis of sex under Title IX in certain circumstances. Schools have a responsibility to protect students against such harassment.”

This year, the Biden Administration issued a Notice of Interpretation declaring an intention to enforce Title IX’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination to include prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Wisconsin parents previously sued the state for a policy that allows their children to change their names and pronouns without parental consent.

This all sets up a major challenge over the required use of pronouns and whether such language is protected under the First Amendment.

110 thoughts on “Wisconsin Files Complaints Against Three Students Who Refused to Use Approved “Pronouns””

  1. It appears being a modern day Tomas De Torquemada is virtuous. Good luck finding in these circles drum beats of “separation of church woke & state”.

    A good man atheist is hard to find… unless if they are woke, in which case Inquisitions are practiced de rigueur



    JK Rowling defends girl ‘driven out of school for questioning trans ideology’

    JK Rowling has condemned the “utterly shameful” treatment of a teenage girl who felt forced to leave her school after pupils hounded her for challenging the views of a visiting speaker. The author waded into the row after a teacher at the school claimed the unnamed girl was treated like a heretic for questioning a politician’s assertions about sex.

    1. This is clearly designed to harass and create a problem where none exists. What middle schooler calls another by any pronoun? And if anyone thinks this is an issue for debate I suggest they become volunteers somewhere where help is needed for something real !

    1. Does she want to be in federal custody while awaiting a hearing?

  2. It really might be time for a National divorce. The crazies can live in their world of bizarre 24/7 365 but cannot migrate to the real world. Both pay for their world and only their world. If this occurred I guarantee there wouldn’t be many living in bizarre world and those states would collapse inside of no time.

    1. Margot Ballhere,
      I have seen/read more than a few times of people calling for a National divorce. Two different societies, two different economies, two different educational systems, etc. and the two shall never meet.
      How would that work out, could be anyone’s guess.

      1. We’re already there in all but name. May as well make it official.

      2. Upstatefarmer says:

        How would that work out, could be anyone’s guess.

        Margot Ballhere replies: I think every Democrat run city would give us some idea?

        By the way thank you for what you farmers do for all of us.

  3. More pot-stirring of the culture wars, one of Turley’s assignments from Fox. Why can’t we all just get along? I was taught to respect people, so if there was a preferred pronoun, how could I have a greater stake in how someone wants to be referred to than the person him or herself? Just some more red meat for the disciples.

    1. It’s not about what someone wants to be called. It’s about being forced to do so.

    2. Natacha, you ask why can’t we all get along? You have made absolutely no attempt on this blog to get along with anyone. You say that you were raised to respect people. It can be found on this blog each and every day that your upbringing had no effect. The noise made by your supposed fairness is the sound of one hand clapping. Just another hater who says she hates hate. Thanks for posting. We are all better informed about where you are coming from.

      1. Republicans come in all types but too frequently are too polite.

        Being stupid is part of the blind Democrat ethos. You should have recognized that by now.

    3. “. . . in how someone wants to be referred . . .”

      Are you supposed to carry around cue cards?

  4. I can recall the days of when “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names will never hurt me!”
    Now, use the wrong pronoun, and you are accused of sexual harassment?
    Not only crazy, but just plain dumb.

    Meanwhile, I just read an article about a guy who has to balance putting gas in his car for work, and buying groceries.

  5. I have often wondered where all this craziness started. Was it some university professor who has hated himself/herself all their life and decided that misery loves company and that he/she would upend a whole system of grammar. Did it start in the sociology departments, the schools of education? It sure didn’t come from parents unless they were indoctrinated into the supposed new norm. One thing I do know is that a lot of this crap comes from social media. One of my clients treats teens and young adults and she tells me her client who are confused, resort to thoughts of suicide, cutting, etc get pushed from sites on the internet that she never even heard of and the targets are all kids. The kids hear from other kids in school that they can go to such and such site for ‘help’. But, the question still remains….where did this all start? Some friends of mine who are in their 40s-50s who are gay don’t understand it, think it is nuts and definitely do not think that gender is ‘fluid’ and pronouns are a point of good grammar.

    1. My 10-year old daughter is in the 4th grade at a K-8 public school in a progressive town in Massachusetts.

      Every week she has an hour of “social and emotional learning”, which for some reason is called RJ, short for Restorative Justice.

      The nuances of gender ideology are a frequent topic of discussion between us, at her initiative.

      She objects to using the pronoun “they” to refer to a single person because it is illogical and confusing. She also prefers “amn’t I” to “aren’t I” for the same reason.

      One of her girl friends has said she is “non-binary” but can’t really explain what that means. My daughter can’t either.

      She doesn’t understand why a girl would want to become a boy simply because she prefers some stereotypically boy things. She has been taught correctly that stereotypes should not constrain but then asks if that is so why can’t a girl behave like a boy without becoming one.

      She is in favour of children thinking and behaving the way they want but is opposed to their taking drugs or undergoing surgery to become something they can never be.

      Hard to imagine these are things 4th graders now consider.

      1. Good opportunity to discuss the extent to which languages vary in gendered pronouns: https://wals.info/feature/44A#2/18.0/149.1

        For example, English has a gender-neutral third person plural (they), whereas Spanish has gendered third person plural pronouns (ellos, ellas). English has a gender-neutral third person singular for things (it), whereas Spanish uses gendered third person singular for things (él, ella).

        “She has been taught correctly that stereotypes should not constrain”

        Some stereotypes have always constrained: words like “butch” and “effeminate” are used as insults, boys are generally ridiculed in the US if they wear a skirt, and women here are not allowed to go topless on most beaches and are expected to be “discreet” while breast-feeding in public.

        “why can’t a girl behave like a boy without becoming one”

        She can. But some people whose gender assigned at birth was “female” do not feel “female” in their heads. Being trans isn’t about behavior, but about internal identity.

      2. Years ago I was helping my Mother cleans out her house and when we came across a bin of old toys she began chuckling when I pulled out a somewhat battered red dump truck. When I asked her what was so funny she told me that it was my truck. When I was about 6 yrs old we lived in the country and I used to go out to my ‘secret’ place to build my ‘fort’. I came home one day and announced that I wished I was a boy. My Mom asked why I wanted to be a boy and I said “because then I could have a truck”. My Mom said she saved up and a few weeks later she put the new truck she had bought on the kitchen table. She said my eyes lit up when I asked her whose truck it was and she said it was mine. She said she later asked me if I still wanted to be a boy and I said no. She said when I replied “no” she asked me why not and I said ‘because I had a truck and didn’t have to be a boy now’. My Mom was a very smart woman. Your daughter sounds like she will be a very smart woman….she certainly is a smart kid.

    2. “I have often wondered where all this craziness started.”

      Grammar is a casualty of academia’s war on objectivity and standards — which started in the philosophy departments decades ago.

      For a good explanation of the particular war on grammar, see this review and the corresponding book: _The War Against Grammar_, by David D. Mulroy (https://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2003/2003.12.15/)

      “[A]ccording to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) ‘decades of research had shown that instruction in formal grammar did not accomplish any positive goals and was actually harmful . . .'” “Opposition to the teaching of grammar is now almost universal among professors of education and the 80,000 members of NCTE . . .” (From the review)

      The war on grammar began at Columbia University, and was stoked by progressive professors who adopted Dewey’s theory of education. See the chapter titled: “America the Grammarless.”

  6. Odds are that these children have known each other since they can remember. Just because the kid wakes up one day and decides to identify as Mork from Ork or Elsa doesn’t mean everyone else should be forced to play along. No matter what he/she wants to be called, he/she is still the same knucklehead the other boys didn’t hang with. If these boys can be charged with sexual harassment, then the parents should countersue for sexual harassment, among other things.

  7. My question is what will be the move on the part of those who are fanatically attached to this radical left ideology should they lose in 2022 and 2024 when the majority of voters reject their desires to “fundamentally change” our nation? Will we need suffer through anarchic chaos until one side of this cultural war prevails? I do not see legal or legislative action solving a conundrum with jihadists who believe in an absolute ideology for change and no notion of compromise.

  8. If you can tell someone what to say, you can tell someone what to think. It’s the tactic of tyrants since time immemorial. Robespierre sent people to the guillotine for merely refusing to address someone by the term “citizen” instead of the traditional “monsieur.” See how this works. Thakfully, most nonDim judges have read about the Reign of Terror that was preceded by the Reign of Stupid. We have the masters of stupid runnning things for now. We’ll have to rely on our courts to prevent the end game of that.

    1. What stops a kid from saying they identify as someone who gets pronouns wrong (PW). It’s just the way they are born. Are we going to allow discrimination of PW’s? PW’s have special rights too, no?

    2. If words are created by what one thinks, then forcing words onto people is a type of mind control. That leads to the mind creating new avenues of speech to let one’s thoughts out. We all learned that when we read Jonathan Swift.

      Many ask why our country didn’t disintegrate sooner, and some answered because freedom of speech acts as a pressure release valve letting people peacefully voice their inner thoughts. Without that, the mind becomes like a pressure cooker, eventually exploding outward. Those here on the left should know that everyone in the vicinity can be injured when the pressure cooker explodes.

  9. Leftists are such perverted, mentally ill, scum! So twisted!

    1. Crazy isn’t it? Now we just need to get the kids to rat out the adults to the govt.

      1. Like they were told to do during the progressive administration of Woodrow Wilson.

  10. The choice is ours.
    Wake up or get in line for the New Normal Global Prison
    The human race divides its self politically into those who want to be controlled and those who refuse to be control.
    There is a titanic ongoing struggle between the forces of darkness/enslavement and the basic human desire for truth and freedom.
    It’s not about Biden v Trump
    It’s not about Democrats v Republican
    It’s not about East v West
    It’s not about men v women
    It’s not about “alphabet people” v straight
    It’s between us as individual humans and the techno-authoritarianism that is being rolled out globally.
    Freedom is a life based on responsible self-determination; on beliefs and traditions one grew up with and which had staying power because they worked.
    A free life is a life filled with hope and optimism that the future will be better than the past, because we are free to identify, and then to work to achieve, our personal goals and dreams while serving our families and communities.
    The forces of darkness/enslavement – the globalist elite ruling class – believe that society must be centralized because they want absolute control over of who they deem to be “serfs” their servants.

    1. no it is about POWER….them or you! They have the POWER to dictate your Speech!

      1. I’m trying to think back to when I was in eighth grade and wondering if I would have either refused the request of how do address others or brought a lawsuit to stop it.

        It is about power, but just not of those you meant. Power is being used to erase speech (and history) in schools across America. But that’s the kind of power you like.

        1. When I was in 8th grade we used to call people the wrong gender all the time. “You’re acting like a girl”. But that was when boys could be boys and we were allowed to sort things out on our own.

          1. Letting boys be boys has so much potential to go wrong there isn’t space to list the possibilities. Some boys, usually the biggest and strongest will survive just fine. The remaining students will just have to survive.

            1. And yet we have more teenage issues today than when we sorted things out on our own. There is value in defending yourself, losing, winning and understanding the world is hard and unfair.

            2. Life’s a heirarchy. Always has been; always will be. Even if the tyrant Leftists gain control and abolish heirarchies. They still stay at the top of the food chain.

              1. I wonder where this world is that you imagine “leftists” are in control? That would suggest they control the courts, law enforcement, state legislatures, school boards, and corporations (they are people too). None of that is true. If you start with the Supreme Court which decides what is and isn’t Constitutional, while in history they may have tilted left on some issues, they have never forgotten their primary role is to protect the rich and mighty.

                1. You want a list? We’ll start with President Sleepy Eyes and his administration of dunces. The next is nancy and Chuckie Show investigating to investigate. Then we can move to the Leftist corrupted instiutions like the FBI, CIA, Military Top Brass and most all of the woke capitalists. Is that enough?

                  1. In America, as opposed to Russia and elsewhere, a President can only do so much, even then SCOTUS will always be there to reign them in, Congress, even when Democrats control both houses has chosen to weaken itself via the filibuster so little chance of lefty control there.
                    You probably are choosing to pay no attention to the House investigation of Jan. 6th. There was a time when the things coming out might have concerned you but it’s likely you neither know nor care what the facts are. Maybe when the hearings are televised you’ll accidently hear something. What makes you think the FBI, CIA, and Pentagon are lefty? Your imagination must be working overtime. No, that isn’t enough, please continue.

                    1. “here was a time when the things coming out might have concerned you but it’s likely you neither know nor care what the facts are.”

                      Like the only person murdered on Jan. 6 was Ashley Babbitt. Or, the fact that the dems pretty much did an insurrection for four years while President Trump was in office?

                    2. One person got killed while committing a crime. Her co-conspirators were trying to overthrow the election. You don’t mind because you apparently wanted them to succeed.
                      BTW, what support did Mitch McConnell provide to Obama during his eight years?

    2. Why are monopolized public schools bullying children? I thought they were against that. Maybe because they are the ones controlling the bullying message?

      1. I’m not sure what you mean by “monopolized public schools?” While schools have perhaps always bullied students to get them to conform, I think the bullying these days is coming from a different direction than you think.

    3. I thought you leftists said parents can’t influence a child. You know, like two gays don’t make a kid gay. Not wanting to ignore reality of a humans actual sex is not a learned thing. It’s just how these kids were born. Kind of like understanding 2+2=4.

      1. So many assumptions in one paragraph. I’m not a leftist, you just need to lump me into a category you can dismiss. Depending on the issue I can be conservative (not nearly the same thing as right-wing) and am far more moderate than you believe. It’s ridiculous to say a parent cannot influence a child, some parents reject their parents and wish to be the opposite (not talking about sex which seems to be your current fixation). A whole of of gay kida came from homophobic parents, how did that happen?

      2. You know, like two gays don’t make a kid gay

        There is no such thing as gay lifestyle, there is no choice, but they are definitely not born that way.

    4. “I suspect this case is far more about the parents than the students.”


      By the time people have children, much of how they look at things is set. Actions of this nature aim to indoctrinate the children by creating difficulty for the parents. We should not be indoctrinating children in this leftist craziness,

  11. Jonathan Turley needs to write a piece a about “attorney-client privilege” laws in regard to “pro se” plaintiffs. Agencies are obstructing justice by warrantless domestic spying (and tampering) with pro se lawsuits challenging government corruption – prior to filing court papers.

    For example: do pro se plaintiffs have any 4th Amendment rights? The goal seems to avoid agency accountability or maybe used by protective agencies – without consent or informing plaintiff. This should be a felony crime, charging officials with obstruction of justice.

    The irony is the lawbreakers likely work at DOJ, DHS,US Marshals and other agencies. How is obstructing justice legal?

  12. if you make me use Pronouns of your choice, then you have to use adjectives of my choice…I like “Superior” and “Brilliant”…along with the title of “Lord”!

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