7th Grader Sues After School Makes Him Remove His 'Only Two Genders' Shirt

Emma Campbell | May 22, 2023
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A Massachusetts seventh-grade student filed a First Amendment lawsuit Wednesday against Middleborough city and Nichols Middle School officials for banning him from wearing a T-shirt that says: “There are only two genders.”

The student, Liam Morrison, first wore the shirt to school on March 21 in order to “peacefully share his belief,” according to Alliance Defending Freedom, who is representing Morrison in court. The school’s principal and a school counselor pulled Morrison out of class and ordered him to change shirts. When Morrison declined, he was sent home. Morrison addressed the Middleborough School Committee at a public meeting in April, stating his case for why he had worn the shirt.

“I don’t complain when I see ‘pride flags’ and ‘diversity posters’ hung throughout the school,” Morrison said to the committee. “Do you know why? Because others have a right to their beliefs just as I do.”

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Morrison wore the shirt again on May 5, this time with a piece of tape with the word “censored” on it covering the words “only two” so the shirt read: “There are censored genders.” He was again asked to change by the principal and he complied so that he wouldn’t have to miss another day of school, according to the lawsuit.

ADF attorneys noted in the lawsuit that the school regularly celebrates LGBTQ themes, including Pride Month, in accordance with the view the school has adopted about sex and gender. Students are encouraged “to engage in their own speech on this subject—so long as the students express the school’s favored viewpoint,” the ADF press release said.

“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,” Tyson Langhofer, an ADF attorney representing Morrison, said in a news release.

Morrison said that the principal told him to change because the message was “making some students feel unsafe” and that people “didn’t like it,” but Morrison questioned this line of reasoning in statements he made to the Washington Examiner.

“That doesn’t make a lot of sense. By that logic, every time someone has a disagreement, they would also be sent home,” Morrison said.

The school’s speech policy allows school officials to subjectively censor students’ expressions based on officials’ own beliefs, which violates the students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, according to the lawsuit.

“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,” Langhofer said.

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