Court Prohibits Student From Donning “Two Genders” Shirt to School

( — A federal appeals court last Sunday sided with a Massachusetts middle school in a dispute over a student who wore a “There are only two genders” T-shirt to school.

Nichols Middle School in Middleborough, Massachusetts, last year required student Liam Morrison, 12, to either remove his shirt or go home because the shirt was demeaning to the transgender and non-binary students in school.

Morrison sued the school, arguing that it had violated his First Amendment rights. However, a US District Court judge ruled against Morrison, prompting him to appeal the judge’s decision.

In an opinion released on Sunday, a three-judge panel with the First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision that Nichols Middle School did not violate Morrison’s free speech rights.

Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom argued that the then-seventh-grader wore the shirt to voice his opposition to the school’s support for the belief that biology does not determine gender and by banning the shirt, the school violated Morrison’s constitutional rights by claiming that the T-shirt violated the school’s policy on so-called hate speech.

In the unanimous opinion written by Chief Judge David Barron, the appellate panel said the shirt could be interpreted by others as a way to say that there are only two valid gender identities – male and female. In light of that, Barron wrote, Nichols Middle School acted reasonably by determining that the message on the shirt was demeaning to students who were gender non-conforming.

The appellate panel concluded that the school had the legal discretion to make that determination.

Judge Barron added that the legal question was not whether the T-shirt should have been banned from the school but who has the authority to make that decision – the school or federal judges.

Morrison could either ask for a hearing before the full Circuit Court of Appeals or his lawyers could petition the Supreme Court to take the case.

Morrison’s attorney, Alliance Defending Freedom’s Dave Cortman, said the case would likely be appealed to the Supreme Court.

In a statement following Sunday’s appellate decision, Cortman said that students do not relinquish their First Amendment right to free speech “the moment they walk into a school building.”

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