Liam Morrison was expecting a comment or two from his peers when he wore a t-shirt to Nichols Middle School (NMS) that said “There are only two genders.”
However, he says the response from his fellow classmates was overwhelmingly positive. “Everyone in my homeroom and everyone in my gym class had supported what I had done,” he told Fox News Digital. Morrison, 12, added that no fellow student directly confronted him about the shirt or said it offended them or made them feel unsafe.
However, he was pulled out of gym class on March 21 and told to remove the shirt because several students and staff had reportedly complained. When he respectfully declined to take the shirt off, school officials called his father to come and pick him up.
In an email reviewed by Fox News Digital, Middleborough Public Schools Superintendent Carolyn Lyons stated that Morrison had violated its dress code. Specifically, the “content of Liam’s shirt targeted students of a protected class; namely in the area of gender identity.”
The middle school student said he wore the shirt because he wanted to express his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
“The reason that I wore it is because, well, everyone has a right to their opinions and I want to be able to voice mine on a subject that a lot of people were talking about,” he explained. “I definitely don’t like that they violated what is basically the first thing that the people who were in charge of America at the time stated we were allowed to do and nowadays it feels like that’s being taken away a lot, which is why some people choose to speak up about it. It’s not just me.”
The Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI), a non-partisan public policy organization, sent a demand letter Monday to NMS laying out how it violated Morrison’s First Amendment rights.
Sam Whiting, a staff attorney for the organization and one of the lawyers representing the Morrison family, told Fox News Digital the action the school took is a “pretty plain case of censorship.”
“There’s case law dating all the way back to the 1960s and maybe even before that states very clearly from the Supreme Court that students don’t lose their right to free speech when they walk in the schoolhouse door. And that’s exactly what the school was trying to do here. You know, Liam was trying to express his opinion on a topic that is controversial in our culture right now. It’s a political topic. A lot of people have different opinions on it. But they said that opinion, you know, is not authorized in school and so you’re not allowed to state it,” he said.
Whiting continued, saying unless a student is causing a “material and substantial disruption in school” or they’re advocating for something like illegal drug use, then students have the “right to express their political opinions– to express their beliefs on things like this.”
“And so, you know, here they’re trying to say that some students complained or were upset about Liam’s shirt. But the law is clear that other students being upset about something that you say doesn’t even come close to causing that kind of substantial disruption that would justify them clamping down on your free speech rights,” he said.
Morrison shared that if a student had confronted him and told him that his shirt offended them, he wouldn’t say much other than “They are entitled to their opinions just as I am.”
“If you have a different view and if they asked why I was wearing it, I’d say because I have a right to have a voice,” he explained.
He planned on wearing the shirt again to school on May 5, saying he was “definitely ready for it.”
However, Stoneman, Chandler & Miller LLP, the law firm representing the school district, informed Whiting and Morrison’s family Thursday afternoon that the school will continue to “prohibit the wearing of a t-shirt by Liam Morrison or anyone else which is likely to be considered discriminatory, harassing and/or bullying to others including those who are gender nonconforming by suggesting that their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression does not exist or is invalid.”
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