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)

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