(NewsReady.com) – School districts around the country have a lot of leeway when they make their dress codes. That doesn’t mean they’re all powerful when it comes to the clothing a child wears, especially concerning political messages or personal opinions. A Massachusetts family hopes to demonstrate that with a new lawsuit.
On May 17, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit in US District Court against the town of Middleborough, Nichols Middle School Acting Principal Heather Tucker, and several others on behalf of Liam Morrison and his parents, Susan and Christopher Morrison. According to the suit, on March 21, 2023, Liam wore a shirt to school that read, “There are only two genders.” Tucker ordered the 12-year-old to remove the shirt, but he refused. She sent him home as a result of his refusal.
Tucker said the student was not allowed to wear the shirt because it violated the school’s dress code which prohibits messages on clothing that “state, imply, or depict hate speech or imagery” that targets people who belong to a protected class, including gender. The lawsuit contends the school violated Liam’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
ADF argues Liam’s shirt wasn’t hate speech at all, “He understands basic biology.”
Let’s talk about Liam Morrison. He’s in 7th grade. He understands basic biology. So he wore a shirt to school saying "There are only two genders."
The result? He was sent home . . . and now we're helping him sue.
— Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal) May 23, 2023
In a speech in front of the school board, the pre-teen said he didn’t remove the t-shirt because he was just stating facts. He demanded to know who the “protected class” was that he was targeting and asked if their feelings are “more important than [his] rights.” He went on to say that he doesn’t complain when he’s in school and sees pride flags or other messages targeted toward the LGBTQ+ community “because others have a right to their beliefs” as he does.
Although the Supreme Court has not issued an opinion on this particular issue, it has stood up for students’ First Amendment rights consistently. In 1969, the high court set a precedent that students don’t “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
Liam is now testing that precedent.
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