Teen’s Gender T-Shirt Battle Heats Up: School’s Request Uphold


Court Affirms School’s Right to Limit Student’s Gender Expression

A Controversial Silhouette: T-Shirt Sparks School-Student Clash

LA News Center recently reported on a federal appeals court upholding a Massachusetts middle school’s decision to ask a student to remove his message-bearing T-shirt. This decision ignited a heated debate over free speech rights and the school’s responsibility to protect a diverse and inclusive learning environment.

The Story Unfolds:

In March 2023, Liam Morrison, an eighth-grade student at Nichols Middle School in Middleborough, arrived wearing a shirt that read, “There are only two genders.” After refusing to take it off, he was sent home with his father. Despite covering the words “only two” with tape and writing “censored” over it, he was again instructed to remove the shirt.

Student’s Perspective:

Morrison asserted that his T-shirt was not intended as a provocation but as an expression of his personal beliefs. He clarified, “I’m just voicing my opinion about a statement that I believe to be true.”

School’s Argument:

The school defended its actions, stating that the shirt could make students who identify as transgender feel uncomfortable or excluded.

Legal Battle Ensues:

The Morrison family filed a lawsuit, and the case reached the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled in favor of the school, arguing that public schools have the authority to regulate student speech that might disrupt the educational environment.

Clash of First Amendment Rights:

Alliance Defending Freedom, representing the Morrisons, argues that the school infringed on Morrison’s First Amendment rights. They contend that schools cannot silence speech they find objectionable unless it poses a “clear and present danger,” which they do not believe the shirt did.

Points of Contention

Free Speech vs. School Authority:

The debate revolves around balancing students’ free speech rights and schools’ responsibility to maintain a safe and welcoming learning environment. Some argue that schools have an obligation to foster tolerance and inclusivity, while others prioritize the freedom to express diverse opinions.

Defining Harassment:

The question of whether the shirt constituted harassment is subjective. Some view it as a discriminatory message, while others see it as a mere statement of belief. The court’s decision suggests that schools have discretion in determining what speech rises to the level of harassment.

Next Steps

The Morrisons are exploring legal options, including appealing the federal court’s decision. This case will likely continue to draw attention from both sides of the free speech spectrum, with implications for future school-student disputes over sensitive topics.


The “There are only two genders” T-shirt incident highlights the complex and often conflicting nature of free speech rights in public schools. As society grapples with evolving social norms and definitions of diversity, these debates will continue to shape the balance between individual expression and institutional responsibility.

Data sourced from: foxnews.com