1965 December 16

Mary Beth Tinker, 8th Grader, Suspended for Wearing Protest Arm Band to School


A student at Warren Harding Junior High School in Des Moines, Iowa, Mary Beth Tinker was suspended on this day for wearing an armband to protest the war in Vietnam. She was joined in the protest by her brother John, age 15, her sister Hope, age 11, her brother Paul, age 8, and their friend Christopher Eckhardt, age 16. The ACLU agreed to take their case, which reached the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. Decided on February 24, 1969, the Court established basic First Amendment rights for public school students. In the majority opinion, Justice Abe Fortas famously wrote that “In our system, state-operated schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism.”

In addition to Mary Beth Tinker’s protest, the Vietnam War created a number of civil liberties crises. They include (1) the lack of a Congressional Declaration of War as required by the Constitution (June 3, 1970); (2) threats to freedom of the press in the Pentagon Papers case (June 30, 1971); (3) spying on the anti-war movement by the CIA (August 15, 1967); (4) threats to freedom of expression, for example the Tinker case; censorship of television programs (February 25, 1968); and directly and indirectly some of the events that led to the Watergate Scandal (May 9, 1969; January 27, 1972).

Watch an interview with Mary Beth Tinker: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2paU40TjS48

Learn more about the casehttps://www.aclu.org/free-speech/tinker-v-des-moines-393-us-503-1969

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

Learn more: David L. Hudson, Let the Students Speak: A History of the Fight for Free Expression in American Schools (2011)

Find a Day

Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps


Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!