1969 January 28

High School Principals “Worried” About Student Activism


A report by the New York City High School Principals Association, released on this day, claimed that student protests, demonstrations, “rule testing,” and violence were taking the city’s schools “down the road to anarchy.” One principal sarcastically stated, “I’d just love to see some civil liberties type try” running a public school. Beginning in the mid-1960s, public school students began challenging dress and grooming codes, arbitrary discipline for breaking school rules, and restrictions on their right to speak out on political issues such as the Vietnam War and race discrimination.

The report referred to the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle, which dealt with rebellious high school students and included disrespect for teachers, disruptions, and violence. The film was controversial, in part, because it opened with Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock on the soundtrack. For more on the controversy over the film, see March 28, 1954.

The most important event related to the rights of students in the 1960s came just a month later in the landmark Supreme Court case of Tinker v. Des Moines on February 24, 1969, which affirmed the First Amendment rights of students in public schools.

Learn more: Eve Cary, et al., The Rights of Students (1997)

Learn more about the rights of students: https://www.aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/students

Read: John W. Johnson, The Struggle for Student Rights: Tinker v. Des Moines and the 1960s (1997)

Learn more: Tom Hayden, The Long Sixties: 1960 to Barack Obama (2009)

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