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Kiel schools go virtual after bomb threats; city cancels Memorial Day parade

The latest threat told school officials to stop investigating three eighth-graders accused of sexually harassing a student who uses they/them pronouns
Published: May. 26, 2022 at 10:42 AM CDT|Updated: May. 26, 2022 at 7:59 PM CDT
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KIEL, Wis. (WBAY) - The Kiel Area School District notified parents that classes will be virtual for the rest of the school year, but now the entire community is being impacted by threats against the middle school. and the city’s Memorial Day parade has been canceled. This, after the district received a third bomb threat this week identifying the middle school as the target.

At 6:48 A.M., Kiel Police received an email with a bomb threat against Kiel Middle School. The threat claimed that pipe bombs were placed inside. Police once again conducted a search of both the middle school and district offices and found nothing.

The person responsible said unless the district halts its investigation of sexual harassment against three eighth-graders and apologizes, the threats will escalate and could target the rest of the community, including city hall, grocery stores and power stations. The principal and school board were also mentioned.

The city of Kiel on Thursday announced it was canceling the Memorial Day Parade.

“Given ongoing security concerns in and around the City of Kiel, the Memorial Day Parade is canceled,” reads a post on the city’s Facebook page.

District Administrator Brad Ebert said he wrote the announcement that students won’t return to the classroom “with tears in my eyes and am heartbroken and devastated.” The end of school is June 3.

A letter to district parents said all facilities will be closed -- including the fitness center, pool, and Full Circle Care -- and school concerts are canceled. The district wants to continue all high school sporting events, but they will be held off-site. The administrator said discussions about graduation are ongoing in hopes of holding the event.

“All of us want nothing more than to bring our students and staff back into our buildings, but the recent threats that we have received, we must put the safety of our precious children and exceptional staff first,” Ebert wrote.

There were no students or staff in the middle school or district offices at the time of the threat Thursday. Kiel schools were already in virtual learning Thursday and Friday due to bomb threats this week.

The person who made this latest threat also expressed frustration against the school board, which held a meeting Wednesday night in an email sent to the district, police and various media organizations, including Action 2 News.

We shared the information with a group that works to prevent violence against the gay community.

“Anytime something big like this happens in the community it affects all LGBTQ people in a way that we navigate our safety as we move through the world,” Reiko Ramos, a youth and young adult advocate with Diverse and Resilient.

”We may be in situations where we think, yes that happened but not my community. But it really is that homophobia, transphobia and anti-LGBTQ violence exists in all communities,” Ramos said.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is assisting with the investigation into who is sending the bomb threats. Authorities aren’t saying if they have a suspect or any leads.

Threats were sent to the district Monday and Tuesday. Schools were evacuated Monday and students were sent home. Classes were canceled Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Board of Education held its school board meeting online Wednesday because of all the threats.

In April, the parents of three boys were notified their sons were being charged by school district officials with sexual harassment. A section of Title IX prohibits gender-based harassment in the form of name-calling on the basis of sex.

The district claims the boys were not referring to a student’s requested pronouns of “they” and “them.”

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The third bomb threat demanded an end to the sexual harassment investigation against three eighth-graders

Through a letter from their attorney, the parents are asking for the charges to be dropped immediately, saying they have no standing legally.

“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.”

The attorney also said the charges have no standing under the school district’s own policy.

“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.

The student at the center of this has not been publicly identified.

A Kiel middle school parent said it’s about more than pronouns. The parent explained their child has come home from school crying, as they’ve been the target of homophobic slurs and harassment.

“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,” said Brad Ebert, Kiel Superintendent.

Kiel schools will remain virtual for the rest of the school year. The city's Memorial Day parade is canceled.

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