‘It’s about free speech’: Middleboro boy in Boston court to halt school’s ban on genders shirt

BOSTON — An eighth grader who is suing Middleboro Public Schools for telling him he couldn’t wear a T-shirt that read “There are only two genders” appeared in a Boston courtroom on Thursday.

Liam Morrison wore the T-shirt saying “There are only two genders” to Nichols Middle School in March 2023, and the principal of the school, along with a school counselor, pulled Liam out of class and ordered him to remove his shirt, according to the boy and his attorneys.

“I was told to change shirts or I would not be able to return to class,” Liam told reporters on Thursday. “I politely declined. As a result, I left school and missed the rest of my classes that day.”

“This isn’t just about the shirt. It’s about free speech. All students have a constitutional right to express their free speech without fear of being punished by school officials,” Liam Morrison said.

Attorneys argued in the Court of Appeals. Lawyers for Morrison want an injunction so he can wear the shirt immediately, but attorneys for the public school district say it doesn’t support their educational mission of inclusivity.

“The problem is the school district itself waded into a controversial cultural issue, which it certainly is welcome to do. But then it took sides in the debate, and that’s certainly way across the constitutional line,” said Morrison’s counsel, Attorney Dave Courtman of Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit legal organization.

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, or GLAD, has also filed legal documents to aid the court in providing extra relevant information.

“As the school said, the truth of the matter is they have a diverse student body. There are trans and non-binary students at the school, and they have as much a legal obligation to equal and positive learning environment for those students as to any other student,” said Attorney Mary Bonauto of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders.

After the first time Liam wore the shirt, he wore another shirt to school that read, “There are censored genders,” to protest to school officials that only some messages about gender are allowed in school, his lawyers earlier said. School officials then told the boy that he could not wear that shirt to school, either.

On Thursday, the boy said regarding the matter, “I was singled out for expressing my opinion.”

Attorneys said after the second time Liam wore the shirt to school, there were threatening messages and a police detail outside of the Nichols Middle School.

Liam’s attorneys argue that the case involves school officials’ censorship of Liam’s message, along with their decision to silence his speech protesting their censorship. This violates the First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, his attorneys said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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