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A Massachusetts middle school student who sued his school and his town after he was sent home for wearing a shirt emblazoned with the message, “There are only two genders” hit a roadblock in his attempt to express his views on the school campus.
On Wednesday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston denied Liam Morrison’s attorneys’ request to suspend the school from barring the boy from expressing his views about gender before a final decision was made by the court.
“We were asking for an immediate order so that he could express himself for the rest of the school year,” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) legal counsel Logan Spena stated. “Liam’s suing for the right to do what every other student in his school currently has the right to do, which is respectfully express their own view on a matter of enormous public concern. What is the relationship between sex and gender?”
Morrison, 12, had informed the Middleborough School Council in late April that his father had to pick him up from John T. Nichols Jr. Middle School on March 21 because he refused to change his t-shirt.
“I never thought that the shirt I wore to school on March 21 would lead me to speak with you today,” Liam began. “On that Tuesday morning, I was taken out of gym class to sit down with two adults for what turned out to be a very uncomfortable talk. I was told that people were complaining about the words on my shirt and the shirt was making some students feel unsafe.”
“I was told that I would need to remove my shirt before I could return to class,” he said. “When I nicely told them that I didn’t want to do that, they called my father. Thankfully, my dad, supportive of my decisions, came to pick me up.”
“What did my shirt say?” he asked. “Five simple words: ‘There are only two genders.’ Nothing harmful. Nothing threatening. Just a statement I believe to be a fact.”
“I have been told that my shirt was targeting a protected class,” he said. “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.”
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.
“The school has other rules on what students can wear that it is allowed to enforce,” Spena said. “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. No matter what you think about the gender issue, it’s pretty remarkable that a school can punish a student for protesting censorship in America today.”
Mairead Elordi contributed to this article.