A Massachusetts seventh-grader has filed a lawsuit after being punished for wearing a T-shirt to school that said, “There are only two genders.”
Claiming that students and staff at Nichols Middle School had said the message made them feel “unsafe,” the principal and a school counselor pulled Liam Morrison out of gym class on March 21 and ordered him to remove the shirt in order to return to class. Morrison declined and ultimately left school, not returning to classes that day.
Not long after the school officials censored his original T-shirt, Morrison wore a shirt to school which read, “There are censored genders,” expressing that only certain messages about gender are tolerated and encouraged, while others are cut down and silenced. When he arrived at school, he was sent to the principal once again.
In May, attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit against the school on behalf of Morrison, in which they asked the court to halt the school’s ban on his shirts and allow him to express his opinions as freely as the other students through the course of the lawsuit. The court denied that request. On Aug. 4, ADF attorneys filed a notice of appeal, requesting that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit rule in favor of Morrison’s free speech rights.
The school principal and counselor claimed their actions were meant to uphold the school’s dress code, which prohibits clothing that states, implies or depicts “hate speech or imagery that target groups based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation or any other classification,” as well as any clothing which school administration “determines to be unacceptable to our community standards.” However, the only sexual orientation or gender identity message prohibited was that of Morrison’s belief that there are only two genders.
Nichols Middle School openly promotes and supports LGBTQ ideology, even observing Pride Month and a “Pride Day.” The school has had a student-led Gay Straight Alliance Club since 2018. When the principal and counselor ordered Morrison to remove the shirt, they claimed students and staff had complained of feeling threatened by the message it expressed. However, when Morrison’s father emailed the school superintendent and asked specifically about the complaints, the superintendent responded only in regard to the school dress code, which apparently prohibited Morrison’s message on gender ideology and no one else’s.
Morrison claimed that when he wore the shirts, he did not observe any students or staff who were offended or upset by the opinion he expressed. In fact, some of his classmates encouraged him and told him they wanted a shirt like his. “I have been told that my shirt was targeting a protected class,” he said at a school committee meeting. “Who is this protected class? Are their feelings more important than my rights? 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.”
“Next time,” Morrison stated, “it may not only be me … there might be more students that decide to speak out.” Morrison was correct, as on May 9, over a month after he originally wore the shirt, two more students wore shirts that said, “There are only two genders.” The principal met with those students as well, ordering them to change their shirts.
ADF attorneys point out that “school officials have adopted one particular view on the subject of sex and gender.” They encourage the students to express their views on the topic—“so long as the students express the school’s favored viewpoint.”
“To be honest,” Morrison said, “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.” He said that the ability to speak up for one’s opinions and those of others is being taken away.
“Always fight for what you believe in and, well, never let anyone stop you from believing,” Morrison said.
Photo: Alliance Defending Freedom