Liam Morrison, 12, was unable to exercise his right to free speech on a t-shirt while enrolled in a Massachusetts public school, according to a federal judge.
“School administrators were well within their discretion to conclude that the statement ‘THERE ARE ONLY TWO GENDERS’ may communicate that only two gender identities—male and female—are valid, and any other are invalid or nonexistent,” concluded Judge Indira Talwani in a decision on June 16.
The Obama appointee then backed up the Middleborough, Massachusetts school’s claim that Morrison’s t-shirt’s message—a statement of biological fact—amounted to an attack on other students’ identities. response.
The 12-year-old boy “went off on school board members after his school sent him home because he refused to change his T-shirt.”
Morrison wore the identical t-shirt on May 5, 2023, but this time the words “ONLY TWO” were covered with a piece of tape that said “CENSORED.” This was an attempt to get past the regulation. Again, the school came to the conclusion that he was harassing a “protected class.”
Morrison’s father and stepmother helped their son Liam file a lawsuit against the school district, Carolyn Lyons, and Heather Tucker, the principal of Nichols Middle School, after they were unable to find an adequate administrative solution.
The lawsuit claimed that Nichols Middle School frequently “observes events like ‘Pride Month,’ and ‘Pride Day,’ in support of the ‘LGBT+ community.'” It also alleged “violations of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.”
In her decision, Judge Talwani stated that “the original message of the Shirt was not protected speech” and went on to state that “the Taped Shirt did not merely protest censorship but conveyed the ‘censored’ message and thus invaded the rights of the other students.”
Despite the fact that several students started wearing the same shirt in an apparent show of support for Morrison, Judge Talwani determined that injunctive relief “is not in the public interest.”
Defendants, on the other hand, “point to statutes passed by the Massachusetts Legislature prohibiting discrimination, bullying, or harassment in schools based on gender identity or expression, as well as directives from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education requiring that schools provide a safe environment to progress academically and developmentally regardless of gender identity,” Talwani said.
Liam Morrison and his family may pursue additional legal action, but Judge Talwani’s message is clear: The First Amendment only applies when speech is approved by the state.