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Reviews | When the Pronoun Police Come for Eighth Graders

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If the Kiel, Wisconsin, school district’s pronoun police were just another waking outgrowth of American education, they would be nothing but local embarrassments. These enforcers are, however, a national disgrace as they are a direct result of federal anarchy with a progressive pedigree.

In April, the district filed charges against three eighth-grade boys for the offense of “mispronunciation,” referring to a classmate using the biologically correct pronoun “she” instead of the classmate’s favorite “them.” This, said district officials — purported educators — constitutes “sexual harassment,” a violation of Title IX.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was enacted long before Congress could imagine today’s progressive dogma that grammar should reflect, through pronouns, the most advanced thinking on gender fluidity. The operational language of Title IX states that no person “shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation, denied benefits, or discriminated against” in education.

This language has been reasonably considered to encompass sexual violence, unwanted touching, and “unwelcome conduct” such as persistent sexual innuendo, harassment, etc. Now, however, the District of Wisconsin, which perhaps prides itself on its progressive improvisation, has made this category of conduct elastic enough to encompass mispronunciations. The district’s behavior is anarchy that stems from the arrogance and cynicism of the US Department of Education.

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Mocking Title IX exemplifies what some progressive theorists call “dynamic statutory interpretation,” that is, enforcing the law entirely independent of congressional intent — in effect, the law. In 2014, Catherine Lhamon, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education for Civil Rights, sent an explanation of a 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter to people who are in no way “colleagues” of federal bureaucrats: college administrators. She ordered them to comply with 66 pages of “guidance” on sexual harassment policies. Many policies have produced kangaroo courts on campus in which people – almost always young men – accused of sexual misconduct are routinely denied due process.

Across the country, accusers are identified, in the language of prejudice, as “survivors.” Defendants are denied the right to question their accusers and can be convicted on the mere “preponderance of the evidence”, not on proof beyond a reasonable doubt. According to a recent tally, there are more than 700 lawsuits filed by victims of mock courts on campuses, seeking justice in real courts.

R. Shep Melnick, a professor at Boston College and co-chair of Harvard’s program on constitutional government, notes that 66 pages were, in his words, a mere “explanation of what Title IX means.” Sixty-six pages of “explanations” which, if not followed, can result in federal compliance investigations and the termination of federal funding for institutions.

In 2014, Lamar Alexander, the Republican from Tennessee who was a former college president and the most knowledgeable senator on higher education, asked Lhamon who gave him the authority to publish detailed and effectively mandatory. With sufficient height, she said, “You did it when I was confirmed.”

President Biden brought her back. Although a Senate committee declined to recommend her confirmation as head of the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, the Senate confirmed her in a 51-50 vote. of “social justice” unrestrained by law – is on display in the Kiel School District in Wisconsin.

There, the reigning lhamonism that has seeped into educational crevices from coast to coast, and from kindergarten to college, has resulted in another progressive attempt to supplant free speech with compulsory speech. . Luckily, the three middle school miscreants accused of “mispronunciation” seem to understand that the best defense is a good offense.

Represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, the boys argue that their use of biologically correct, even politically incorrect, pronouns is speech protected by the First Amendment. The Constitution also prohibits the district from requiring them to suddenly speak as district bureaucrats – how long ago did they adopt this orthodoxy? – favorite. Additionally, the institute says it spoke with another Kiel-area family “whose daughter was recently suspended from school for ‘sexual harassment’ based on a single statement using an allegedly ‘wrong’ pronoun. – and the statement was said to a third partynot even to the supposedly “malgendered” student.

Perhaps schools in the Kiel area can waste time trying to bully children into conforming to this or that fashion because they have done their real job so brilliantly: education. However, it may be best if schools willing to engage in pronoun policing do not even attempt education.