Court Rejects Massachusetts Middle-Schooler’s Free Speech Request to Wear ‘Two Genders’ Shirt at School

The U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston denied 12-year-old Liam Morrison’s request this week for a temporary injunction or restraining order to block his school from prohibiting expression of his view that “there are only two genders” before the court issues its final decision.

“MFI [Massachusetts Family Institute] recently filed suit to vindicate the rights of this brave Middleborough 7th-grader to wear a shirt to school that simply stated ‘There Are Only Two Genders,’” the pro-family organization said in a press statement sent to The Star News Network. “After being censored by his school, Liam’s case went viral. MFI has partnered with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to file a federal lawsuit against the school.”

MFI explained:

[W]e had a hearing on our request for a temporary restraining order (TRO), which would have immediately forced the school to allow Liam to wear the shirt to class. A TRO is an extraordinary form of relief that is rarely granted. The Court ultimately declined to grant the TRO, but this hearing was only the first step of the litigation process. We will be in court again in two weeks’ time for another hearing on whether the school must allow Liam to wear the shirt for the entire time that the case is pending.

“This isn’t about a T-shirt; this is about a public school telling a seventh grader that he isn’t allowed to hold a view that differs from the school’s preferred orthodoxy,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Public school officials can’t censor Liam’s speech by forcing him to remove a shirt that states a scientific fact. Doing so is a gross violation of the First Amendment.”

In L.M. v. Town of Middleborough, ADF attorneys explained the town and school officials have “adopted one particular view” on the subject of the “nature of human identity and existence,” i.e., “that a person’s subjective identity determines whether a person is male or female, not a person’s sex.”

ADF further detailed:

Defendants have expressed this view through their own speech and instituted annual, school-wide events celebrating their view and encouraging students to engage in their own speech on this subject— as long as the students express the viewpoint Defendants approve.

“Compounding their unlawful adoption of an orthodoxy in this area, they have created and implemented a Speech Policy which Defendants admit permits students to express viewpoints supporting Defendants’ view of gender identity but forbids students from expressing a contrary view,” the complaint noted.

In March, Liam wore a shirt to school that said, “There are only two genders.” He was subsequently removed from his gym class at Nichols Middle School and informed by school staff that complaints had been made that his shirt made others feel “unsafe.” He was told to change shirts or he would have to leave school.

When Liam’s father asked the school to justify its actions, the school cited a provision of the dress code that states clothing must not represent “hate speech.”

On April 13, Liam delivered an address to his school committee that went viral with over ten million views.

“I have been told that my shirt was targeting a protected class,” Liam said. “Who is this protected class? Are their feelings more important than my rights?”

Liam continued:

I don’t complain when I see pride flags and diversity posters hung throughout the school. Do you know why? Because others have a right to their beliefs just as I do. No one person, staff, or student told me that they were bothered by what I was wearing. Actually, just the opposite. Several kids told me that they supported my actions.

ADF asserts that “school officials’ censorship of Morrison’s message, and the speech policy and practice on which that censorship was based, violate the First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.”

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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Liam Morrison” by MA Family Institute.


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