BOSTON – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a middle-school student forbidden by his school from wearing two T-shirts to school—one that reads “There are only two genders” and one that reads “There are [censored] genders”—filed a notice of appeal Friday after a court ruled against the student’s freedom of speech.
ADF attorneys are requesting that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit prevent Nichols Middle School in Middleborough from prohibiting the student, Liam Morrison, from wearing his shirts to school. The parties in the lawsuit agreed that further proceedings at the lower court were unnecessary in view of the disputed legal issues, so they mutually decided to ask that court to convert its previous ruling into a final judgment so that they could present the legal issue to the court of appeals.
“This isn’t about a T-shirt; this is about a public school telling a middle-schooler that he isn’t allowed to express a view that differs from the school’s orthodoxy,” said ADF Legal Counsel Logan Spena. “Public school officials can’t force Liam to remove a shirt that states his position when the school lets every other student wear clothing that speaks on the same issue. Their choice to double-down and silence him when he tried to protest their censorship is a gross violation of the First Amendment that we’re urging the 1st Circuit to rectify.”
Attorneys with ADF and Massachusetts Family Institute filed the lawsuit in May on behalf of Morrison after he wore the “There are only two genders” T-shirt to school to peacefully share his belief, informed by his scientific understanding of biology—that there are only two sexes, male and female—and that a person’s gender—their status as a boy or girl, woman or man—is inextricably tied to biological sex. The principal of the school, along with a school counselor, pulled Morrison out of class and ordered him to remove his shirt. After he politely declined, school officials said that he must remove the shirt to return to class. As a result, Morrison left school and missed the rest of his classes that day.
Once school officials censored his original message, Morrison chose to wear an altered shirt that reads, “There are [censored] genders” to protest the fact that only some messages about gender are allowed. As soon as Morrison arrived at school, his teacher instructed him to go to the principal’s office, where he was told that he could not wear that shirt at school either.
In the case, L.M. v. Town of Middleborough, ADF attorneys explain that school officials have adopted one particular view on the subject of sex and gender: that a person’s subjective identity determines whether a person is male or female, not a person’s sex. They have expressed this view through their own speech, instituted schoolwide “Pride” events celebrating their view, and encouraged students to engage in their own speech on this subject—so long as the students express the school’s favored viewpoint. School officials admit that their policy permits students to express viewpoints supporting the officials’ view of gender but forbids students from expressing a different view.
- Pronunciation guide: Spena (SPEE’-nuh)
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to protecting First Amendment and related freedoms for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
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