Tinker v Des Moines reaches out of modern history


Anna Xu

The United States of America joined the Vietnam War to impede the spread of communism. After two decades of warfare (1955-1975), the war became “the longest in U.S. history until the Afghanistan War.”
Daniel Elsburg released the infamous Pentagon Papers that revealed the truth about the military’s lack of success and high casualties. Soon, the involvement in the Vietnam War was exceedingly controversial among the media and the general populace.
In total, there were 177 songs written regarding the Vietnam War. One famous protest song, “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan, became an instant hit that resonated with those in the anti-war movement. It sang lyrics such as, “How many deaths will it take ’til he knows that too many people have died?”
The dissatisfied grumble across the nation carried to the youth, as well. “At a public school in Des Moines, Iowa,” Mary Beth Tinker and a small group of friends and family constructed black armbands with peace signs in opposition of the war. The school caught hold of the movement and swiftly banned the armbands. When Tinker refused to take hers off, she was suspended, and soon following her were four other students. They were only allowed back to school after the winter break and the removal of the black armbands.
Through Tinker’s parents, they sued the school for violating the student’s First Amendment right. “The District Court dismissed the complaint on the ground that the regulation was within the Board’s power, despite the absence of any finding of substantial interference with the conduct of school activities.”
The case moved to the Court of Appeals, which again ruled in favor of the school district. In 1969, four years after the incident, The case was directed to the Supreme Court. The court ruled 7-2 that because the student’s were not being disruptive with their behavior, the students should be allowed the right to wear the armbands as “students don’t shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gates.”
Because the Supreme Court upheld the students’ constitutional right of free speech, the judiciary set a precedent that students could express their opinions with their clothing. Sophomore Lucas Clements uses his clothing to represent his views, “Oh, absolutely [I do.]” he said.“I have a shirt that I actually got from a protest that says, ‘Stop policing our bathrooms’ with a toilet on it to protest for transgender rights.”