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Iowa History Daily: December 14 - Tinker v. Des Moines

Iowa History Daily: On December 14,1965, principals in Des Moines created a policy dictating suspension for any student refusing to remove an armband worn to protest the Vietnam War. When suspensions resulted for five students, the stage was set for a US Supreme Court Case which continues to resonate today.

In late 1965, Senator Robert F. Kennedy called for a Christmas Truce in the Vietnam War. To show support, students in Des Moines including John (15 years old), Mary Beth (13), Hope (11), and Paul Tinker (8), as well as their friend Christopher Eckhardt (16), wore black armbands to North HS, Roosevelt HS, Harding Junior High, and local elementary schools. After the principals decided to head off the children’s planned protest by passing the policy, John, Mary Beth, and Christopher were suspended on December 16.

After the Tinker family worked with the Iowa Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union, Dan Johnston took the case and filed in US District Court. After the lower court upheld the school board’s decision, a tie vote in the US Court of Appeals allowed the case to proceed to the US Supreme Court. Argued in November of 1968, the court rule 7-2 to apply the 1st Amendment to public schools.

Establishing “The Tinker Test” (also known as the substantial disruption test), the court’s ruling still guides courts today in determining whether a school’s interest to prevent disruption infringes upon students’ 1st Amendment rights to freedom of speech. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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