A Massachusetts district court denied a request on Wednesday from the lawyers of a 12-year-old student seeking to exercise his free speech rights by wearing a t-shirt reading “there are only two genders.”
The US District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston refused to grant a temporary injunction preventing Nichols Middle School from restricting seventh grader Liam Morrison’s freedom to express his views on gender while the court considers its final decision.
“Liam’s not asking to literally wear whatever he wants, but he is asking to do what other students are already allowed to do, which is express their view on this topic in a non-disruptive manner,” Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Logan Spena told Fox News on Thursday.
“They claim that because Liam’s message is not inclusive, they can exclude it,” he continued. “What they don’t account for is how does their own speech and all the other speech they already permit impact Liam.”
The ADF and Massachusetts Family Institute sued Nichols Middle School and the town of Middleborough on Morrison’s behalf last month after he was pulled out of gym class and ordered to remove the shirt in question on March 21. When he refused, his father was called to take him home.
School staff reportedly told the seventh-grader his shirt was “targeting a protected class” and created a “disruption to learning” because it was making some people feel “unsafe,” though he later told the Middleborough School Committee that “not one person” had expressed discomfort or upset when he wore the shirt to class.
When Morrison protested the school’s censorship by wearing another shirt to class last month reading “there are only censored genders,” he was pulled out of class within minutes and ordered to remove it as well.
At a Middleborough School Committee meeting in April, Morrison questioned who is the “protected class” he had offended. “Are their feelings more important than my rights?” he asked, pointing out that he didn’t complain when the school hung “Pride flags and diversity posters” in the halls because “others have a right to their beliefs, just as I do.”
Nichols Middle School has stood behind its dress code, which prohibits messages on clothing that “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.”
The lawsuit argues that the school’s promotion of Pride month and other LGBTQ initiatives while barring Morrison from expressing his contrary views constitutes a violation of not only the First but the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law. The next hearing is scheduled for June 13.