1st Circuit Court Affirms School’s Right to Prohibit Anti-Transgender Apparel

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in L.M. v. Town of Middleborough has upheld a lower court’s final ruling in favor of a Massachusetts public middle school which prohibited a student from wearing a t-shirt reading “THERE ARE ONLY TWO GENDERS” on the grounds that it disrupted learning by harmfully targeting transgender and gender nonconforming students.

The Court, understood the message as striking negatively at the core of identity for students who are transgender or gender nonconforming and found that the school was within its right to keep the student from wearing the t-shirt. The Court affirmed that, while students have a right to free expression, public schools are permitted to prohibit messages that will cause a substantial disruption to the school learning environment.

GLAD submitted a friend-of-the-court brief alongside the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents in support of the Middleborough school to emphasize (1) the school’s authority to address issues and behavior that can reasonably be predicted to cause substantial disruption to the school learning environment and (2) the harmful impact on student learning for all students when transgender and nonbinary students are targeted for exclusion.

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