Students John Tinker(age 15), Mary Beth Tinker(age 13), and Christopher Eckhardt(age 16) decided to publicize their opposition to the Vietnam War by wearing black armbands to school on December 16, 1965.
After learning this, two days prior, the principals formed a policy stating that any student who wore an armband to school would be asked to remove it. If he refused, he would be suspended until agreeing to return to school without the band.
“Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia”.
The First Amendment to the Constitution “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment 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 petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
…..however, the court dismissed the complaint, claiming that the regulation was within the Board’s power due to the possibility of disruptions from the students' protest.
Students at an all-black school in Mississippi wore "freedom buttons" to protest racial segregation in the state. The principal ordered the students to remove the buttons because they would cause commotion. When several students continued to wear the buttons, the principal suspended them for a week. By a 3-0 vote, a Fifth Circuit panel held that school officials could not prohibit the wearing of the "freedom buttons" because there was no evidence that the buttons would have caused a substantial disruption. Outcome: School officials cannot ignore expressions of feelings that they simply don’t want to contend with. They cannot violate a student’s right to free expression under the First Amendment to the Constitution if it does not interfere with discipline in the operation of the school.
They appealed their case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8 th Circuit who considered the case en banc. (entire court)
A tie vote in that court allowed the District Court's ruling to stand.
So…… they appealed the case to the Supreme Court of the United States.
1. Do the First Amendment rights of free speech apply to symbolic speech (armbands) by students in public schools? 2. If so, under what conditions is this symbolic speech protected? The First Amendment states "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech." 3. The Fourteenth Amendment extends this rule to state governments: schools.
“Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
The Supreme Court ruled that the Des Moines Schools violated the First Amendment rights of the students by suspending them for wearing armbands. But the Court did not say that the schools could never control freedom of expression. It said students are entitled to some First Amendment rights but not necessarily all the First Amendment rights that others would have outside the school context.
The wearing of armbands is “closely akin to pure speech” which has been upheld by the Supreme Court and protected under the First Amendment. This act of wearing armbands was not accompanied by disruptive conduct by the participants.
A student’s constitutional rights are not “left at the schoolhouse gate.” In West Virginia v. Barnette – The Supreme Court upheld that students may not be forced to salute the flag under the First Amendment.
The Fourteen Amendment protects citizens against the state and therefore, the Boards of Education. None of their discretionary duties apply within the Bill of Rights. In Bartels v. Iowa, the Fourteenth Amendment prevents States from forbidding foreign language instruction to young students..
Teaching our youth good citizenship is reason enough to uphold the principles of our government. The Fear of disturbance is not enough to prohibit freedom of expression. The district must prove that their restrictions are a result of more than just wanting to avoid the unpleasantness of dealing with an unpopular viewpoint.
The school authorities did not ban any other political or controversial symbols: political buttons or Iron Cross. State schools may not teach totalitarianism: absolute authority over students. The state will respect students’ rights and students will respect the states’ rights.
Students may not be limited only to expression of beliefs that are officially approved. Schools may not prohibit students from “expressions of feelings with which they do not wish to contend.” The nation’s future depends on a wide exchange of ideas which results from a “multitude of tongues.”
First Amendment Rights are not confined to the ”phone booth, the four corners of a pamphlet or to be a supervised discussion in a school classroom.” However… any student’s conduct that disrupts class work or involves disorder or intrusion of others’ rights is not protected under freedom of speech.
Conclusion: The wearing of armbands was "closely akin to 'pure speech'" and protected by the First Amendment. Decision: 7 votes for Tinker, 2 vote(s) against Legal provision: Amendment 1: Free Speech Clause Amendment 14: Due Process Clause
1. United States District Court The District Court sided with the school officials, declaring that the regulation against armbands was reasonable in order to prevent disturbances in the school. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1966) 2. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit The Court was equally divided in the case, so the District Court decision stood. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1967) 3. Supreme Court of the United States (1969) Ruled in favor of the students, declaring that the armband protest was protected by the First Amendment right of free speech. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969) Court System
The U.S. supreme courts' decision gave all students the right to symbolic speech as long as it does NOT disrupt the learning process.
First amendment schools. (2006). Retrieved from http://www.firstamendmentschools.org/freedoms/case.aspx?id=1658 http://www.firstamendmentschools.org/freedoms/case.aspx?id=1658 Lii legal information institute. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://topics.law.cornell.edu/constitution/billofrights http://topics.law.cornell.edu/constitution/billofrights Lii legal information institute. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://uscode.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode42/usc_sec_42_00001983---- 000-.htmlhttp://uscode.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode42/usc_sec_42_00001983---- 000-.html Tedford, T., & Herbek, D. (2009). Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. Freedom of speech in the united states. Retrieved (2010, February 12) from http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/comm/free_speech/tinker.html http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/comm/free_speech/tinker.html Tinker v. Des Moines (1969). Landmark cases supreme court. Retrieved (2010, February 12) from http://www.landmarkcases.org/tinker/background3.htmlhttp://www.landmarkcases.org/tinker/background3.html Tinker v. Des Moines (1969). Landmark cases supreme court. Retrieved (2010, February 12) from http://www.landmarkcases.org/tinker/casedigram.htmlhttp://www.landmarkcases.org/tinker/casedigram.html