A 12-year-old honor roll student filed a First Amendment lawsuit on Wednesday against his middle school for its officials’ refusal to allow him to wear a T-Shirt that states: “There are only two genders.”
Seventh-grader Liam Morrison, in his lawsuit against those who oversee Nichols Middle School in Middleborough, Mass., argues that its speech policy is unconstitutional because it’s overly broad, infringes on his First Amendment rights, and allows campus leaders to enforce viewpoint discrimination.
The federal lawsuit repeatedly points out how the school celebrates LGBTQ themes, including during “Pride Month,” when students are encouraged to express themselves, yet Morrison’s belief there are only two sexes, male and female, is deemed a violation of the school’s speech policy.
“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 Tyson Langhofer, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Morrison along with the Massachusetts Family Institute.
Langhofer, in a news release, added: “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 March, when Morrison first wore the T-shirt, Nichols Middle School’s principal had told him to change his T-shirt. “He declined and was sent home,” the Massachusetts-based Enterprise newspaper reported.
At an April school board meeting, Morrison told school leaders they violated his free speech rights.
“I don’t complain when I see pride flags and diversity posters hung throughout the school,” Morrison reportedly said at the April 13 meeting. “Others have a right to their beliefs just like I do.”
The school’s speech policy states: “Clothing must not state, imply, or depict hate speech or imagery that target groups based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, or any other classification.”
District officials told Morrison the T-shirt “violated the school’s dress code because the message was classified as hate speech. The school staff told Morrison it targeted a protected class of students,” the Enterprise reported.
The lawsuit asks the courts to issue an injunction against the policy and deem it unconstitutional, stating students “do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”
“Under the Speech Policy, school officials can censor expression that they deem inappropriate or that they subjectively determine targets a certain group even if this expression is not materially and substantially disruptive,” the lawsuit argues.
“The overbreadth of the Defendants’ Speech Policy and practice chill the speech of students who might seek to engage in private expression through the wearing of messages on their clothing.”
IMAGE: via Alliance Defending Freedom