S: Tinker v. Des Moines (1965)
FC: Tinker v. Des Moines, 1965
1: John and Mary Beth Tinker attended public school in Des Moines, Iowa in 1965.
2: Their school did not allow students to wear armbands to protest the Vietnam War.
3: However, the Tinkers decided to wear armbands to school anyway. The school officials asked the Tinkers to remove their armbands, but the Tinkers refused. John and Mary Beth Tinker were suspended from school until they agreed to remove the armbands.
4: The Tinkers sued the school district in the U.S. District Court.
5: The Tinkers believed that the Des Moines school district violated their right to free speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Even though the students were not speaking with their voices, they believed that wearing armbands was like speaking. This is called symbolic speech.
6: The District Court sided with the school officials. The Court said that wearing the armbands could disrupt learning at the school. Learning without disruption was more important than the free speech of the students.
7: The Tinkers appealed their case to the next level of courts, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit: But the Circuit Court agreed with the District Court. The Tinkers then appealed their case to the Supreme Court of the United States.
8: The Court had to answer this basic question: Does the constitutional right of free speech protect the symbolic speech of public school students?
9: In 1968, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear the case of Tinker v. Des Moines. They issued their decision in 1969.
10: Do you think that the school policy banning armbands was fair? Why or why not?
11: The students knew they would be suspended if they wore armbands to school and chose to do so anyway. Why do you think they ignored the rule?
12: The First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech." Why do you think the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that certain actions should have the same protection as verbal speech? Are these reasons valid?
13: Pretend that students in your school wanted to protest the school-wide ban on smoking. Should they legally be allowed to protest by wearing T-shirts that read "Up with 'Butts'!"? Why or why not?
14: The Court ultimately sided with the Tinkers, claiming: . . . First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. . . . . . . the record fails to yield evidence that the school authorities had reason to anticipate that the wearing of the armbands would substantially interfere with the work of the school or impinge upon the rights of other students . . . [and] the school officials banned and sought to punish petitioners for a silent, passive expression of opinion, unaccompanied by any disorder or disturbance on the part of petitioners. . .
15: References: Photos from Yahoo.com via Mixbook Text from www.landmarkcases.org