top of page

Iowa History Daily: February 24 - SCOTUS Decides Tinker v. Des Moines

Iowa History Daily: On February 24, 1969, the Supreme Court of the United ruled to protect the First Amendment rights of students in schools in deciding “Tinker v. Des Moines.” The court found in a 7-2 decision: "It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."

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


bottom of page