12-year-old Liam Morrison

Federal Appeals Court Rules Massachusetts School Can Ban ‘There Are Only Two Genders’ T-Shirt

12-year-old Liam Morrison
12-year-old Liam Morrison

A federal appeals court backed on Sunday a Middleborough, Massachusetts, middle school’s decision to restrict one of its students from wearing a T-shirt with the words, “There are only two genders.”

The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that officials did not act “unreasonably” when they concluded Nichols Middle School student Liam Morrison’s shirt may be understood “to demean the identity of transgender and gender-nonconforming” students.

Morrison’s lawsuit, filed last year by the Alliance Defending Freedom and Massachusetts Family Institute, argued officials violated his First Amendment rights when they said his shirt was prohibited by the school’s dress code.

Read: REPORT: Massachusetts Housed Migrant Children In Hotels With Sex Offenders

“We think it was reasonable for Middleborough to forecast that a message displayed throughout the school day denying the existence of the gender identities of transgender and gender non-conforming students would have a serious negative impact on those students’ ability to concentrate on their classroom work,” Chief U.S. Circuit Court Judge David Barron, an Obama appointee, wrote in the opinion.

Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson, an Obama appointee, and Judge Lara Montecalvo, a Biden appointee, joined the opinion.

The school’s dress code bans clothing with messages that “state, imply, or depict hate speech or imagery that target[s] groups based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, or any other classification,” according to the ruling.

Read: VIDEO: MTG Defends 12-Year-Old Sent Home From School Saying There Are Only 2 Genders

“[W]e see no reason to substitute our judgment for Middleborough’s with respect to its application of its Dress Code here,” the opinion continues. “We conclude the record supports as reasonable an assessment that the message in this school context would so negatively affect the psychology of young students with the demeaned gender identities that it would ‘poison the educational atmosphere’ and so result in declines in those students’ academic performance and increases in their absences from school.”

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Vice President of U.S. Litigation David Cortman said in a statement that Morrison’s attorneys are likely to appeal the case, noting students “don’t lose their free speech rights the moment they walk into a school building.”

“This case isn’t about T-shirts; it’s about a public school telling a middle-schooler that he isn’t allowed to express a view that differs from their own,” Cortman said. “The school actively promotes its view about gender through posters and ‘Pride’ events, and it encourages students to wear clothing with messages on the same topic—so long as that clothing expresses the school’s preferred views on the subject.”

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First published by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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