Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District

RESPONDENT: Des Moines Independent Community School District
LOCATION: Des Moines Independent Community School District

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 393 US 503 (1969)
ARGUED: Nov 12, 1968
DECIDED: Feb 24, 1969

Facts of the case

In 1965 in the state of Iowa John Tinker and his sisters Mary Beth, Hope and Paul together with their friend Christopher Eckhardt met and agreed to wear the armbands of black color to the Des Moines school. They explained it as their demonstration against the War in Vietnam and as support so-called the Christmas Truce. The educational council was informed of this and enacted a rule not to allow children to dress the armband during the studying time. If the students didn`t adhere this rule, they were not admitted to come to school. < /p>

The Tinker`s children came to school dressing their black bands on the arms, however, in accordance with the recent rule they were returned to home and should be to come back without this clothe. The students did not visit the studying until the end of the protest, which was planned on the New Year's Day. < /p>

Their parents in the children`s interest filed a claim to the school district arguing on the breach of the student`s right on free thoughts and expressions as result of the prohibition of some cloth. The district court refused to explain that this rule had the aim to regulate the scholar behavior and the board was empowered to enact it. < /p>

The plaintiffs sued the appellation to the U.S. Court of Appeals that confirmed the previous resolution.< /p>

The case study continued in that the application was submitted to the Supreme Court with the issue of infringement of the freedoms of speech proven by the First Amendment. The major judgment stated that such prohibition to clothe such clothing was considered as limitation of the rights guaranteed under the legislation. The case brief reflected, that the judges confirmed that such decision had no significant reasons as to exercise the adherence of the discipline and to control the pupils behavior. These rulings implemented the Tinker test to define whether the school rules regarding the maintaining of discipline infringed students` rights devoted to express their opinions freely.


Does a prohibition against the wearing of armbands in public school, as a form of symbolic protest, violate the students' freedom of speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment?

Media for Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 12, 1968 in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District

Earl Warren:

Number 21, John F. Tinker and Mary Beth Tinker, minors, etcetera et al., petitioners versus Des Moines Independent Community School District et al.

Mr. Johnston.

Dan L. Johnston:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case is similar in some respects to the decision and the case of result and decision in Epperson versus Arkansas which the Court decided just this morning.

The case is here on certiorari to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

One major distinction between Epperson and this case is that this case involves the right of public school students other than public school faculty members to exercise expressions of their opinions in a non-disruptive way in the school.

Case began in the United States --

Abe Fortas:

Well, this is not a religious establishment case here?

Dan L. Johnston:

No, it's not Your Honor.

It's a First Amendment free speech case in the sense of expression of views rather than a worship or establishment cases.

The case began as a petition for injunction and nominal damages under 42 United States Code 1983 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.

That court dismissed the petition and on appeal to the Circuit, the decision was split 4 to 4.

Conduct of the students essentially was this, that Christmas time in 1965 they decided that they would wear small black armbands to express certain views which they had in regard to the war in Vietnam.

Specifically, the views were that they mourn the dead of both sides, both civilian and military in that war and they supported the proposal that have made by United States Senator Robert Kennedy that the truce which had been proposed for that war over the Christmas period be made an open ended or an indefinite truce.

This was the purpose that the students gave for wearing the armbands during this period.

During the period of time of course, there were school days and they wore the armbands to school.

Prior to the time when any of these petitioners wore the armbands to school, it came to the attention of the school authorities that perhaps there would be some students who would express views related to the war in Vietnam in this manner during school time.

The principles of the secondary schools, the high schools and perhaps the junior high schools in the City of Des Moines, a public school system, met prior to the time in any of the armbands have been worn and enacted policy which was not written but which was agreed upon among themselves that no student could wear an armband in the Des Moines public school system for this purpose that if a student came to school wearing the armband he would be asked to remove it.

Failing that, the student's parents would be contacted and their assistance would be solicited in getting the students to remove the armbands.

Failing that, the students would be set home would be in effect suspended from school until such time as they were willing to return to school without the armbands.

The three students who are petitioners in this case - Christopher Eckhardt, who was 16 and in the 10th grade of Roosevelt High School in Des Moines at the time; John Tinker, who was 15 and in the 11th grade at another high school; Mary Beth Tinker, who was 13 and in the 8th grade - determined that in spite of the policy that had been announced to the schools that they would wear the armbands as a matter of conscience to express the views that they had.

Christopher Eckhardt and Mary Beth Tinker wore theirs on the first day.

Mr. Eckhardt went to school, had the armband on, knowing of the policy against the wearing of the armbands, because as I say it had been announced.

He went quite immediately to the office of the principal and said, “I'm wearing the armband, I know that it is a violation of the school policy.”

The principal carried out the dictates of the policy which were to tell the student to remove it.

The student said he could not in good conscience remove the armband but he thought he had a right to wear it.

The student's mother was called and she supported her son in the activity and then young Mr. Eckhardt was suspended from school.

He was out of school approximately six days, five days prior to the Christmas vacation and then one day after the Christmas vacation.

Mary Beth Tinker also wore her armband on that first day.

However, she wore it throughout the entire morning without any incident related to it and any way disrupted the school or distracted.