Tinker v. Des Moines: Free Speech for Students

Tinker v. Des Moines: Free Speech for Students

Tinker v. Des Moines: Free Speech for Students

Tinker v. Des Moines: Free Speech for Students


The impact and ramifications of cases argued before the Supreme Court are felt for decades, if not centuries. Only the most important issues of the day and the land make it to the nine justices, and the effects of their decisions reach far beyond the litigants. Under discussion here are five of the most momentous Supreme Court cases ever. They include Marbury v. Madison, Roe v. Wade, Dred Scott, Brown v. Board of Education, and The Pentagon Papers. An absorbing exploration of enormously controversial events, the series details, highlights, and clarifies the complex legal arguments of both sides. Placing the cases within their historical context (though they ultimately emerge as works in progress), the authors reveal each decision's relevance both to the past and the present. the result is a fascinating glimpse across the centuries into the workings of the Supreme Court and the American judicial system.


THe FIrsT AmenDmenT

Congress shall make no law respecting an establish-
ment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the
right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to peti-
tion the Government for a redress of grievances.

In 1965, as a GrOWInG numBer of Americans began to question the wisdom of continuing to wage the Vietnam War, three teenagers in Iowa defied the rules and wore black armbands to school. They said they wore the homemade bands to mourn the war’s dead and to support a cease-fire. That action ignited its own battle, one the students and school officials would fight in the courts and eventually take to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On February 24, 1969, the Court, in a 7 to 2 decision, ruled that the students had a right to freely express their views, under the protections granted in the First Amendment. As long as the students’ actions did not disrupt classes—and the Court ruled they did not—they had as much right as adults to free speech.

The ruling in that case, Tinker et al. v. Des Moines Independent Community School District et al., has been called “the broadest statement of students’ rights” yet rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court. In writing the . . .

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