Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)
- In 1965, a public school district in Iowa suspended three teenagers for wearing black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War. Their families filed suit, and in 1969 the case reached the Supreme Court.
- The Court ruled that the school district had violated the students’ free speech rights. The armbands were a form of symbolic speech, which the First Amendment protects.
Background of the case
The Constitutional question at stake
“In our system, state-operated schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism. School officials do not possess absolute authority over their students. Students in school, as well as out of school, are "persons" under our Constitution. They are possessed of fundamental rights which the State must respect, just as they themselves must respect their obligations to the State. In our system, students may not be regarded as closed-circuit recipients of only that which the State chooses to communicate. They may not be confined to the expression of those sentiments that are officially approved. In the absence of a specific showing of constitutionally valid reasons to regulate their speech, students are entitled to freedom of expression of their views.”