HOT TOPICS–FREE SPEECH IN SCHOOLS|
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District
In Tinker v. Des Moines, the United States Supreme Court decided a case where school regulations infringed on the freedom of students to exercise their First Amendment rights. There, three students had planned to wear black armbands to school to publicize their objections to the Vietnam War. Hearing of this, the school principals "adopted a policy that any student wearing an armband to school would be asked to remove it, and if he refused he would be suspended until he returned without the armband." When the three wore their armbands to school, "[t]hey were all sent home and suspended from school until they would come back without their armbands."
The students then filed a complaint praying for an injunction restraining the school officials and the members of the board of directors of the school district from disciplining the students, and seeking nominal damages.
Free Speech v. School Regulations
Within the public school context, the Court noted that the "Fourteenth Amendment . . . protects the citizen against the State itself and all of its creatures - Boards of Education not excepted." Teachers and students did not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."
However, the Court admitted that the school setting presented a special situation, and recognized "the need for affirming the comprehensive authority of the States and of school officials, consistent with fundamental constitutional safeguards, to prescribe and control conduct in the schools."
The Court noted that the students' protest was a silent, passive expression of opinion which