Life Legal has filed an amicus brief to vindicate the First Amendment rights of a middle-school student. A public school in Massachusetts censored the twelve-year old for wearing a T-shirt bearing the simple, scientifically correct message: “There are only two genders.” The school claimed that the student violated its Dress Code, which prohibits speech that targets groups based on various characteristics, including gender identity. Moreover, the school asserted that the student’s message infringed on the rights of a protected class under the laws of Massachusetts. The student was told he could either remove the T-shirt or go home.
The brave middle-schooler opted to go home, rather than allow his First Amendment rights to be trampled. Later, he wore another t-shirt that read, “There are [CENSORED] genders.” Once again, the school disciplined the child, saying the message on the boy’s t-shirt was “unsafe.”
The middle school regularly promotes “pride” events such as Pride Month, encouraging student participation, including dressing in “Pride gear.” However, the school only permits students to express messages that conform to the school’s position that gender is malleable. This is a middle school – meaning the students are 11 to 13 years old.
The young student filed a lawsuit in the federal district court seeking a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the school’s policy, but the court sided with the school. He then appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
Last week, Life Legal filed an amicus brief in support of the student in this case (LM. v. Town of Middleborough, Massachusetts). Our brief argues that by suppressing L.M.’s pure political speech and at the same time broadcasting its own support of the highly controversial transgender ideology, the school has created a constitutionally impermissible “enclave of totalitarianism” over students.
Not only is the subject of transgenderism unrelated to the educational purpose of the school, but the suppression of this student’s opinion in the face of the school’s relentless propagandizing teaches students not to exercise their First Amendment rights when faced with a message they disagree with. As we note in our brief, this “daily participation in deceit” through enforced silence will undoubtedly impact students’ thoughts, words, and actions.
Moreover, students that agree with the school’s policy are taught that it is acceptable to censor opinions with which they disagree. Nothing could be further from the intent of the First Amendment. Nothing could be further from the school’s actual mission to prepare students to live in a civil democracy, where individuals on both sides of a dispute discuss their differences openly and civilly.
Increasingly, we see this same set of circumstances played out on college campuses and on social media where individuals seek to suppress messages with which they disagree. The pro-life movement has been targeted by those who falsely claim, similar to the school in this situation, that the truth about abortion is harmful, even violent, and therefore should be suppressed. But we know the truth makes you free – and saves lives!