Des Moines, Iowa residents John F. Tinker and his siblings wore black armbands to their schools in protest of the Vietnam War and tp supporting the Christmas Truce
Tinker v. Des Moines 1969
The principals of the school learned of the plan and suspended anyone wearing armbands. A suit was filed after the Iowa Civil Liberties Union approached the Tinker family and agreed to help with the lawsuit.
Does a prohibition against the wearing of armbands in public school, as a form of symbolic protest, violate the students' freedom of speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment?
Through their parents, the students sued the school district for violating the students' right of expression and sought an injunction to prevent the school district form disciplining the students.
The Respondent argued that the First Amendment does not provide the right to express any opinion at any time. Because, the appearance of the armbands distracted students from their work, they detracted from the ability of the school officials to perform their duties, so the school district was well within its rights to discipline the students.
Decision and Reasons
They ruled in favor of the Tinkers' and the Supreme Court held that the armbands represented pure speech that is entirely separate from the actions or conduct of those participating in it. The Court also held that the students did not lose their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech when they stepped onto school property.
This court case will be referenced many times throughout the history of the Supreme Court with public schools.