Landmark Case – Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)

Student Speech, Symbolic Speech

“. . . In the absence of a specific showing of constitutionally valid reasons to regulate their speech, students are entitled to freedom of expression of their views.”— Justice Fortas, speaking for the majority

John and Mary Beth Tinker of Des Moines, Iowa, wore black armbands to their public school as a symbol of protest against American involvement in the Vietnam War. When school authorities asked that the Tinkers remove their armbands, they refused and were subsequently suspended. The Supreme Court decided that the Tinkers had the right to wear the armbands, with Justice Abe Fortas stating that no one expects students to “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

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