Tinker v Des Moines

Brooke Andrews & Samantha Begin


In 1965, a group of students in Des Moines, Iowa held a meeting at Christopher Eckhardt's home to plan a public showing of their support for a truce in the Vietnam war. They decided to wear black armbands throughout the holiday season. The principals of the Des Moines school learned of the plan and came together to create a policy that stated that any student wearing an armband would be asked to remove it. If they refused to do so, it would result in suspension. Mary Beth Tinker and Christopher Eckhardt wore their armbands to school and were sent home. The next day, John Tinker did the same with the same result. The students families sued the school district for violating the students' right of expression and tried to prevent the school district from disciplining the students.


February 4th, 1969, nine Supreme Court justices delivered a 7-2 majority rule. They stated that the armbands represented pure speech which is entirely separate from the actions of those participating in it. The Court also held that the students did not lose their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech when they stepped onto school property; however, not all rights remain the same. Since the appearance of the armbands distracted students from their work, they prevented the school officials from perform their duties, so the school district was well within its rights to discipline the students.


This ruling proves how individual rights can vary on school grounds. School officials may not silence student expression just because they dislike it, but if it's disruptive, then it's a violation of the First Amendment. They must reasonably advertise that a substantial disruption of the school environment or invasion of other's rights will result in severe punishment.