Tinker V. Des Moines was a very controversial case. In December 1965, a group of adults and students in Des Moines including 15 year old John Tinker, his sister Mary Beth, their friend Christopher Eckhardt, and their parents had held a meeting at the Eckhardt home. The group determined to publicize their objections to the hostilities in Vietnam and their support for a truce by wearing black armbands and fasting during the holiday season. Upon learning of their intentions, and fearing that the armbands would provoke disturbances, the principals of Des Moines School district decided that all students wearing the armbands be asked to remove them or face suspension, because the school had adopted a new policy that any student wearing an armband would be asked to remove it, and if not they would be removed from school. When the Tinkers and Christopher wore these armbands to school they were asked to remove them. They refused and they were suspended from school until they returne! I'd to school without the armband, that policy would expire after New Years Day.
Does a prohibition against the wearing of armbands in public school, as a form of symbolic protest, violate the First Amendments protections? The Court of Appeals sitting en banc, affirmed by an equally divided court said that wearing armbands, the petitioners were quiet and passive. They were not disruptive and did not impinge upon the rights of others. In these circumstances, there conduct was within the protection of the Free Speech Clause in the First Amendment, and the Due process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Also, they came to a conclusion that First Amendment rights are available to teachers and students, subject to application in the light of the special characteristics of the school environment.
The conclusions of the case were that wearing the armbands was closely akin to pure speech and protected by the First Amendment. School environments imply limitations on free expression, but here the principals lacked justification for imposing any such limits. The principals had failed to show that the forbidden conduct would substantially interfere with appropriate school discipline.
This case is controversial, and there are many sides I could take. Myself, I agree with John Tinker and his family. I believe that if you believe in something strong enough, they you should stand up for it. In this case they believed in something and tried to stand up for it, with their First Amendment rights, and yet they were forced by the school to remove them. The children and their parents werent hurting anyone with their antics, and I think they shouldnt have been forced to remove their armbands, or anything for that matter, that stands up for what they believe in.
I also think that their right to freedom of speech was infringed, and they shouldnt be able to take that away from them. I think every school has a little of this going on inside it, take our school for example, right now we are trying to get Deputy Anchor back, and if we tried to petition to Mr. North, I dont think he would give in. Some administrators dont like to listen to what students have to say, even if they are relevant points. They have their own views set, and think that only they are right.
In my opinion the Tinker family was right to protest this case to the highest level. If you give some of your rights away without complaining, whos to say that youre not going to give them all up. Stand strong for what you believe in, is what I think the Tinker and Erchardt families were trying to say, and I believe they accomplished their goals.
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