A Massachusetts middle school has found itself at the epicenter of a looming legal storm as the family of a 7th-grade boy gears up to sue the institution for prohibiting him from wearing a shirt stating, "There are only two genders."
In what could become a landmark First Amendment case, the Morrison family is set to file a lawsuit against Nichols Middle School, located in the Middleborough Public Schools district midway between Boston and Cape Cod. They allege the school violated their son Liam's First Amendment rights, Fox News reported.
Liam, aged 12, recounts being instructed to take off his "two genders" shirt shortly after arriving at school. Middleborough Public Schools Superintendent Carolyn Lyons clarified via email that Liam had breached the school dress code, as the "content of Liam’s shirt targeted students of a protected class; namely in the area of gender identity."
Undeterred, Liam returned to school sporting another shirt reading, "There are censored genders." School staff once again asked him to remove his shirt, according to the youngster. He defended his choice of attire, stating, "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."
Lawyers representing the middle school informed the Morrison family's attorneys from Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) that they would 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, an MFI staff attorney, expressed confidence about the impending legal battle, saying, "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."
Whiting highlighted Liam's conduct, stating, "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."
Whiting contended that Nichols Middle School had censored Liam due to his "political and cultural viewpoint" on an issue currently sparking "widespread debate right now in the public square." The family's lawyer indicated that the next step would be a summons to federal court.
The 7th grader reported overwhelming support from his classmates, with no student expressing offense at his shirt. He urged others to be vocal about their beliefs too, saying, "Always fight for what you believe in and, well, never let anyone stop you from believing really... It’s being taken away from us. And being able to speak up not just about your own … being able to voice your opinion.”