Thursday, May 18, 2023

7th Grader Sues Over School's Hate Speech Dress Code

Suit was filed yesterday in a Massachusetts federal district court challenging the Middleborough school district's Dress Code which provides:

Clothing must not state, imply, or depict hate speech or imagery that target groups based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, or any other classification.

The complaint (full text) in Morrison v. Town of Middleborough, (ED MA, filed 5/17/2023), alleges that a 7th-grader's free speech rights were violated when he was not permitted to attend classes wearing a T-shirt carrying the message, "There are only two genders". Two weeks later he came to school wearing a shirt with the message, "There are censored genders". He was also barred from wearing this shirt.  The complaint alleges in part:

101. As Defendants interpret their Speech Policy, some viewpoints on the topic of “gender identity or expression” are permitted while some viewpoints on the same topic are prohibited. In particular, speech expressing the viewpoint that there are only two genders is prohibited, while speech expressing the viewpoint that gender is fluid and is on a spectrum is permitted....

135. Defendants’ censorship of Liam’s shirts while permitting shirts and other apparel with different messages on related topics is viewpoint discrimination, which is unconstitutional in any type of forum....

153. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the government from censoring speech pursuant to vague standards that grant enforcement officials unbridled discretion.

154. The arbitrary determination by school officials of what is and is not “hate speech,” what speech “targets” a specific group, or what speech is “unacceptable to community standards” violates this norm.

ADF issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.