Tinker v. Des Moines School Disrict

Warren Court: 1968

What Is It?

A group of students in Des Moines, Iowa organized an anti-war protest by associating black armbands as their symbol for being against the Vietnam War. The principal found out about the meaning of the armbands and asked the students to remove them. if the armbands were not removed they would be suspended. The students disregarded the school board and decided to wear them anyway, which resulted in 5 students being suspended.
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Why is this important?

John and Mary Beth Tinker, and Christopher Eckhart were all sent home and suspended for starting the anti-war protest at their school. These students believed that their 1st and 14th amendment were violated and abused by the school for taking away their freedom of speech and not having equal protection. Anti-war protests were happening all across America because not many people supported our army's engagement in the Vietnam War.
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The Impact/Significance

Justice Abe Fortas stated " It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gates." Justice Hugo Black dissented; he pointed out that the case involved a small number of students who refused to obey the instructions of school officials, and argued that allowing this behavior would have a negative effect on the schools and on the country as a whole. The verdict reached by the court created a law that gave power to the school systems. Known as the tinker test, the ruling allowed individual schools to prohibit students from protesting if there was a chance it could lead to a disruptive response.