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Tinker v. Des Moines Plaintiffs Discuss Student Rights

Tinker v. Des Moines

September 20, 2013

Inspired by the civil rights movement and horrified by the images projected nightly onto their television sets, 13-year-old Mary Beth Tinker, her brother John F. Tinker, and a group of friends wore black armbands to their school in Des Moines, Iowa in an effort to encourage a peaceful resolution to the war. This peaceful protest led to their suspension from the school and the eventual legal challenge of that suspension as a violation of free speech.  What followed was the landmark 1969 U.S. Supreme Court decision Tinker v. Des Moines, finding that First Amendment free speech rights applied to public schools.

Now, the Tinkers will be touring the nation to promote free speech and civics education. Tinker and her brother visited the law school on Sept. 16 - the "first stop" on their tour - to talk about their continuing mission to promote students' constitutionally protected right to free speech. 

Tinker encouraged the students to use their voices.  "Students speaking for themselves is the most powerful voice for young people," Tinker told a packed audience at the law school.  Tinker emphasized that it is especially important for law students to use all the tools their legal education provides because, as is exemplified by her simple act of wearing a black armband, "history is made by little - small - actions that everyone makes," Tinker concluded.