Students’ Right to Freedom of Speech: The Tinker Case

Students’ Right to Freedom of Speech: The Tinker Case


The political opinion of American students strengthened in 1965 when they bore black bands in their schools for loathing the interest of United States in the Vietnam’s war. Actually, a group of Des Moines high school based on 5 students decided to wear black armbands at the residence of Christopher Eckhardt for protesting against the participation of United States in Vietnam War. This protest spread like fire in the forest. All the school authorities passed a ruling that those students who wear the armbands will be sent home and they shall not be allowed to enter in the classes unless they do not remove the black bands.

Despite the new rule of principals, the group of Des Moines high school wore armband.  Christopher Eckhardt -who was also among the students, who wore the arm band-, said that “Captain of football team came to me and attempted to tear the armband. I did not tolerate this insult and went to the Principal’s office where vice principal said to me “my noose would be busted if I did not unclothe the armband”.  Later, the whole group of five students had been expelled from the school and they were not allowed to take classes. Upon this, the board of the Des Moines School summoned a meeting and started reviewing the ruling of principals. The board favored the ruling and said that principals have right to impose new rules with regard to maintaining the decorum of the schools.

The situation was turned out to be more critical and Chris Eckhardt, Mary Beth Tinker, and John Tinker filed a suit against the school ruling in the district court under the pretext that “rights of students had been violated”. The district and Federals courts had dismissed the case and it was Nov. 12, 1968 when the case made its way to Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court said in its ruling that “Students have right of freedom of speech and first constitutional amendment also applies to the schools and colleges”.  Does this mean that decorum of schools should be compromised? The Court said no.  Schools have right to prevent students from invading and subjugating the rights other students and they are not allowed to overrule the discipline system of schools.

The case of Tinker is a good example before us. The ruling of this case guarantees the rights of freedom of speech to all Americans and it was supposed to be best ruling in the history of courts.

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