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Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District

    Brief Fact Summary. Tinker (Petitioner) was suspended from school for showing his support of the anti-war movement.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Student speech may be regulated when such speech would materially and substantially interfere with the discipline and operation of a school.

    Facts. Petitioner was a high school student who joined his parents in protesting the Vietnam War. The form of protest was to wear a black armband for a period of two weeks during the holiday season. When Petitioner arrived at school he was told to remove the armband or be suspended. He took the suspension and did not return to school until after the protest period ended, New Year’s Eve 1965.

    Issue. Is symbolic speech by public school students protected under the First Amendment?

    Held. Yes. Students are persons worthy of constitutional protections both while in school and out of school.

    Dissent. The students are not wise enough to support or reject a cause. It is best to leave the order of education to the administrator’s judgment.

    Discussion. The wearing of the armband was singled out of all other symbolic speech engaged in by the student body. Clearly, this was designed to erase all opposition to the war speech in the schools and was not related to any legitimate purpose. There was no evidence that the wearing of the armbands caused any disruption of any class or school function.


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