Tinker v. Des Moines would prove to be a reflection of the era in which it was tried by the Supreme Court. The Civil Rights Movement was reaching a heated pitch and the Vietnam War was being protested by many throughout the country.
Protests and rallies were all being held in order to show the discontent with the United States’ involvement in Vietnam and most were avid supporters of the First Amendment and the civil liberties guaranteed under the Constitution’sBill of Rights. Tinker v. Des Moines would directly be a product of the occurrences of the revolutionary 1960s.
Tinker v. Des Moines was a Supreme Court case that would once again deal with the application of the Constitution’s First Amendment rights granted to citizens of the United States. The case revolves around a group of teenagers wearing black armbands with a peace symbol embedded within in protest of the Vietnam War. The School Board was informed of the practice and banned the wearing of such armbands in school.
Certain students, among them John and Mary Beth Tinker decided to violate the policy, which subsequently got them both, along with other students, suspended from their respective schools. The matter was tried in various State courts, with each judgment being ruled in favor of the Des Moines School Board. The Tinkers had no other choice
than to bring the matter before the United States Supreme Court. Presiding over the case was Chief Justice Earl Warren, which would eventually help overrule the State of Iowa’s decisions to uphold the actions of the Des Moines School Board.
It was decided that such a penalty to be imposed upon students would be in violation of the Freedom of Speech Clause of the First Amendment. Furthermore, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment applied to public schools and their students. Any type of
censorship that is sought on behalf of the school boards would have to provide for a Constitutionally-valid reason or purpose. Even though the protest in question in the Tinker v. Des Moines case does not actually involve a verbal speech, the wearing of the armband is considered as symbolic speech and is protected under the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court ruled that in order for the restriction of free speech to be Constitutional, it must provide for that speech to be disruptive to the function of the school and/or interfere with other students’ rights. Censoring free speech on the basis that it is unpopular or causes discomfort is not grounds to restrict the Freedom of
Speech. Even though the Court rendered that the freedom of the speech was to be upheld in public schools, there were those on behalf of the minority involved in the decision that disagreed with the ruling.
They believed that if the students were given more freedoms on school grounds, that it would eventually, defeat the educational purposes of a school facility due to the the disruption caused by students exercising Freedom of Speech rights without control. Regardless, the First Amendment rights to students were upheld in the Tinker v. Des Moines case.