The family of a 7th grade boy is preparing to sue his Massachusetts middle school for banning him from wearing a shirt that said, “There are only two genders.”
The Morrison family plans to file a lawsuit against Nichols Middle School for allegedly violating their son Liam’s First Amendment rights.
Nichols Middle School is part of the Middleborough Public Schools district about halfway between Boston and Cape Cod.
Liam, 12, said he was told to remove his “two genders” shirt almost immediately when he arrived at school.
In an email, Middleborough Public Schools Superintendent Carolyn Lyons said Liam violated the school dress code because the “content of Liam’s shirt targeted students of a protected class; namely in the area of gender identity.”
Liam came back to school wearing another shirt that read, “There are censored genders,” but school personnel told him to remove that shirt as well, he said.
“I’m just voicing my opinion about a statement that I believe to be true. And I feel like some people may think that I’m imposing hate speech, even though it’s not directed towards anyone,” Liam said.
The middle school’s lawyers told the family’s attorneys with Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) that the school planned to continue to “prohibit the wearing of a T-shirt by Liam Morrison or anyone else which is likely to be considered discriminatory, harassing and/or bullying to others including those who are gender nonconforming by suggesting that their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression does not exist or is invalid.”
Sam Whiting, a staff attorney for MFI, said he expects the Morrison family to prevail.
“We believe that we’re going to get a win on this. I mean, I really can’t think of a better fact pattern to vindicate a student’s First Amendment rights,” said Whiting.
“Liam did everything correct in this situation. He hasn’t disrupted anything. He hasn’t harassed anyone. And yet they’re still censoring him just because they don’t like what his shirt had to say. And that’s made even more obvious by the fact that they made him take off a censored version of the shirt,” Whiting said.
Whiting said Nichols Middle School censored Liam because of his “political and cultural viewpoint” on an issue that is the subject of “widespread debate right now in the public square.”
The next step is a summons to federal court, the family’s lawyer said.
The 7th grader said his classmates has been extremely supportive, and no student told him his shirt offended them.
“Everyone in my homeroom and everyone in my gym class had supported what I had done,” Liam said.
He encouraged others to be vocal about their beliefs as well.
“Always fight for what you believe in and, well, never let anyone stop you from believing really,” he said. “To be honest, in the place that we live, or in the time that we live, there are a lot of people that try and make it so that you’re not allowed to believe what you can. But, it’s being taken away from us. And being able to speak up not just about your own … being able to voice your opinion.”