Anonymous asked in Politics & GovernmentGovernment · 1 decade ago

I have questions on the Tinker v. Des Moines Court Case.?

Hey I need some help. I cant find the information listed below on any websites regarding the Tinker v. Des Moines Court case. Please help me I need this tonight!!


Briefly describe the opinions offered by the judges (majority, concurring or dissenting) with regards to this case...


How is the case being used today to decide comparable legal issues?

2 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969) was a decision by the United States Supreme Court that defined the constitutional rights of students in U.S. public schools. The Tinker test is still used by courts today to determine whether a school's disciplinary actions violate students' First Amendment rights.

    In December 1965, Des Moines, Iowa residents John F. Tinker (15 years old), John's younger sister Mary Beth Tinker, (13 years old) and their friend Christopher Eckhardt (16 years old) decided to wear black armbands showing peace symbols on them to their schools (high school for John and Christopher, junior high for Mary Beth) in protest of the Vietnam War and supporting the Christmas Truce called for by Senator Robert F. Kennedy (brother of President John F. Kennedy). The school board apparently heard rumor of this and chose to pass a policy banning the wearing of armbands to school. Violating students would be suspended and allowed to return to school after agreeing to comply with the policy. Mary Beth Tinker and Christopher Eckhardt chose to violate this policy, and the next day John Tinker also did so. All were suspended from school until after January 1, 1966, when their protest had been scheduled to end.

    A suit was not filed until after the Iowa Civil Liberties Union approached their family, and the ICLU agreed to help the family with the lawsuit. Their parents, in turn, filed suit in U.S. District Court, which upheld the decision of the Des Moines school board. A tie vote in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit meant that the U.S. District Court's decision continued to stand, and forced the Tinkers and Eckhardts to appeal to the Supreme Court directly. The case was argued before the court on November 12, 1968.

    [edit]The Supreme Court's decision

    The court's 7 to 2 decision held that the First Amendment applied to public schools, and that administrators would have to demonstrate constitutionally valid reasons for any specific regulation of speech in the classroom. Justice Abe Fortas wrote the majority opinion, holding that the speech regulation at issue in Tinker was "based upon an urgent wish to avoid the controversy which might result from the expression, even by the silent symbol of armbands, of opposition to this Nation's part in the conflagration in Vietnam," and, finding that the actions of the Tinkers in wearing armbands did not cause disruption, held that their activity represented constitutionally protected symbolic speech.

    Justices Hugo Black and John Marshall Harlan II dissented. Black, who had long believed that disruptive "symbolic speech" was not constitutionally protected, wrote "While I have always believed that under the First and Fourteenth Amendments neither the State nor the Federal Government has any authority to regulate or censor the content of speech, I have never believed that any person has a right to give speeches or engage in demonstrations where he pleases and when he pleases." Black argued that the Tinkers' behavior was indeed disruptive and declared, "I repeat that if the time has come when pupils of state-supported schools, kindergartens, grammar schools, or high schools, can defy and flout orders of school officials to keep their minds on their own schoolwork, it is the beginning of a new revolutionary era of permissiveness in this country fostered by the judiciary."

    Harlan dissented on the grounds that he "[found] nothing in this record which impugns the good faith of respondents in promulgating the armband regulation."

  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    The case was important because it was the first case since W. VA vs Barnette in 1943 to decide whether students in the public schools have the First Amendment right to free speech. The Supreme Court's ruling is seen as a high water mark for students' rights, which were curtailed in several Supreme Court cases since (Kuhlmeier, Bethel v Fraser, and Morse v Frederick.) Still, the basic precedent of the Tinker ruling remains, with some exceptions, that students do have a right to express themselves in public schools as long as their actions are not 1) substantially disruptive, and as long as 2) their actions do not infringe on the rights of others. The ruling is frequently cited today in student speech and expression cases, such as whether students have a right to wear anti-gay, or gay t-shirts (see Wolcott HS in Connecticut, or Heather Gilman in Port au Prince FL, where the principal tried to outlaw rainbows.) Or, see cases having to do with cell phones and facebook, ie Layshock, Blue Mountain, Kowalski. Also, see case in PA on "I love (heart) boobies" bracelets, or case in Wayne Co. OH where court ruled in favor of "Jesus Is Not A Homophobe" t-shirt. Also, check case in Minnewaska Area school dist where 12 yr. old was asked for her facebook password, or Capital HS students who were chastised for changing their school name to "cap" on t-shirts. Students who wore red armbands in NJ to protest abortion were supported by the ACLU, which cited the Tinker ruling. For more info: check articles in Education Week by Mark Walsh, or go to ACLU website, or check Judge Tom Jacob's website "Ask the Judge," and read his good books on teen rights. Good luck!

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