Tinker v. Des Moines

By: Katie and Jessie


John Tinker, his younger sister Mary Beth, and one of their friends Chris Eckhardt decided along with their parents to protest the Vietnam War. They decided to protest by wearing black armbands from Decemeber 16th to New Years Eve. Once the school knew their intentions they feared it would provoke disturbance and the principals of the school district decided that all students wearing the armbands would be asked to remove them or be suspended. When the Tinkers and their friend refused to remove the armbands they were suspended from school until January 1, 1966, which is when their protest was scheduled to end. Through their parents, the students sued Des Moines Independent Community School District for violating the student's right of expression and they sought an injunction to prevent similar disiplinary actions.


The problem was whether or not school systems could regulate a student's speech and expression in school when it doesn't disrupt the learing enviorment. The Court had to decide if the First Amendment applied to students and how far those rights extended while in school.

The judges who supported the school district felt that students are not wise enough to support or reject a cause. They believed that it is best to let the administrators judge what procedures are necessary.


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 that the First Amendment applied to public schools, and school officials could not censor students’ speech or expressions unless it disrupted the learning process. Since wearing armbands was not disruptive, the Court held that the students were protected by the First Amendment.


This case was significant because it established a basis for student's rights in schools that is still used today. No case before questioned how school systems protected a student's rights. This case ensured that students "do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door." School administrators cannot regulate a student or teacher's speech or expression unless it proves to disturb others. This gives students and families more freedom to express their beliefs in schools.

We strongly agree with the outcome of this case. Without this decision we wouldn't be able to discuss and display our beliefs like we can today. By taking such a strong stance against the Vietnam War, the Tinkers helped to ensure the rights of all future students.