Maura Thompson
Court Case 3
Tinker ET AL
Des Moines Independent Community School District ET AL
No. 21
Supreme Court of United States
Argued November 12, 1968
Decided February 24, 1969

John Tinker, age 15, and some other friends from his school, and their parents, gathered one night to discuss their views on the war in Vietnam and petition against it. They decided that they were going to wear black arm bands from December 16, 1965 to New Years. When John Tinker and the other petitioners wore their arm bands to school that day they were all sent home and suspended until they would return without the arm band. Once the students returned back to school, after New Years, they filed a complaint with the District Court under the code that restricted school officials from punishing the petitioners for wearing the arm bands.
Decision and Rationale:
The District Court dismissed the case after a hearing was held and referred it to a similar case, Burnside v. Byars, in which students fought for the right to wear “freedom buttons” in the context of their First Amendment Rights of freedom of speech. The Tinker v. Des Moines was sent to a Court of Appeals in which it was ruled in favor of the students. It governed that disciplining the students for their actions was going against their First Amendment Right and that the school officials were not disciplining for “dress code” regulations, therefore their argument was invalid.
Impact on Teaching:
This has a great impact on teaching because it protects students for being punished for wearing things that are a display of their own personalities. If the case would have gone the other way then students might not be able to wear certain clothing with their favorite band on them or would not be able to express their feelings against or for certain things going on the community or in the world, such as the Vietnam War. Students have a right to express the way they feel about certain issues but when the display of those expressions become a disruption to their learning then some type of restriction would have to be enforced. In this case it was totally acceptable for the students to express their thoughts about the war. If it were to become a problem for the teachers to teach in their classrooms because of the arm bands then maybe officials would have had a reasonable argument.
Quiz Question:
Which of the following is a valid argument for punishing children in school for what they are wearing?
  1. Articles of expressed thoughts
  2. Dress code violations
  3. Shirts with certain band names
  4. Hats with tags still on them

Supreme Court of United States
Argued November 12, 1968 Decided February 24, 1969
By: Lindsey Little and Jennifer Carmack

Three high school students started a petition against events having in Vietnam during the war. As an outward expression of their petitioning the students decided to wear a black armband. The school administration heard of this and released a new rule that any student caught wearing an armband would be ask to remove it and if the student refused than the student would be suspended until he or she could return to school without the armband. In 1966, the United States Court of Appeals case, Blackwell v. Issaquena County Board of Education, ruled that students were allowed to wear “freedom buttons” which had a black and white hand joining together.
The judges ruled in favor of the students, stating that not allowing symbolic speech infringes on their first amendment right. With a decision of 7-2 the Supreme Court stated that the schools are able to determine and limit matters such as dress code, but that they were over stepping their boundaries by expelling the students for wearing arm bands. One judge dissented and stated “I have never believed that any person has a right to give speeches or engage in demonstrations where he pleases and when he pleases.” He went on to say “if the time has come when pupils of state-supported 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.”

Impact on Teaching:
The famous words “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse door,” were spoken with this case. Kids have the ability to express their beliefs in a non-disruptive manor during school. In the Black v. Issaquena County Board of Education, students were granted the right to wear a symbol promoting fellowship between people from different ethnic backgrounds with goes with the freedom of speech. However, certain attire can cause controversy. By a student wearing a t-shirt that may promote “pro-choice” could cause tension between another students who believes in “pro-life”. The biggest issue with this case is schools walk a fine line between what infringes on student’s rights, what’s considered disruptive attire, and what children should be allowed to wear in forms of protest.

Applicable Quiz Question:
Which of the following would a student not be allowed to wear to school?
  1. A t-shirt displaying their religious beliefs
  2. A sticker stating, “Pro Life”
  3. A button supporting their favorite political party
  4. A bandana representing a gang symbol