Living History with Mary Beth Tinker

Tinker

Mary Beth Tinker addresses Oakton (Va.) High School students June 4.

Who best to join our class on the landmark Supreme Court student rights case, Tinker v. Des Moines, than Mary Beth Tinker herself? On June 4, she joined Newseum Education staff in co-teaching a class on the First Amendment to 90 students visiting from Oakton High School in Oakton, Va.

Having her at the Newseum brought life to the Tinker case, which is the foundation of our popular “You Can’t Say That in School?!” and “First Amendment and Tinker” classes that teach students the power of the First Amendment.

As a 13-year-old in 1965, Tinker and other students were told by public school officials that they could not wear black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War. They sued the Iowa school district, claiming that their right of free speech had been violated. In 1969, the Supreme Court agreed with the students.  The court said students in public schools do not “shed their constitutional rights … at the schoolhouse gate.”

These days, Tinker is a pediatric nurse and an advocate for the rights of youth.

“From debriefing the students, it appears they had a fantastic day and learned a tremendous amount,” said Oakton teacher Rebecca Small. “I hope they look back on this day with enriched knowledge of the First Amendment and student rights. The memory will surely make me smile.”

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One thought on “Living History with Mary Beth Tinker

  1. I just loved the statement of the court that students in public schools do not “shed their constitutional rights … at the schoolhouse gate.” We need such courts all over the world who can differentiate between what is right and what is wrong.

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