Does the First Amendment stop at the classroom door?

Mar. 7, 2013

Does the First Amendment stop at the classroom door?

ST. LOUIS, March 7, 2013 – In 1965, Mary Beth Tinker was only 13-years-old when her actions propelled her to the Supreme Court. She and a small group of students decided to wear black armbands to their Des Moines area schools to protest the war in Vietnam. Tinker and four other students were suspended when the schools asked them to remove the armbands and they refused. 

The American Civil Liberties Union helped file a complaint at U.S. District Court arguing the protest was free speech protected by the First Amendment. They lost there and at the appellate court. In 1968, the case went to the Supreme Court. As the case went through the courts, Tinker and her family relocated to St. Louis where she attended high school in University City.

After four years, the case culminated in the landmark Supreme Court decision: Tinker v. Des Moines. On February 24, 1969, the Court ruled that the First Amendment applied to public schools and that school officials could not censor student speech unless it disrupted the educational process. The case determined that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

Join Tinker and a panel of experts on the First Amendment on Monday, March 11, at 7:30 p.m. in the Winifred Moore Auditorium. The event hosted by Webster's School of Communications is free and open to the public. Mary Beth Tinker Free Expression Arm Bands will be available for those who attend.

The panel, moderated by newspaper editor and Webster University communications & journalism professor Don Corrigan, includes:                

  • Craig Cheathan, KMOV Investigative Reporter
  • Tony Rothert, American Civil Liberties Union
  • Tammy Merret-Murry, president, Society of Professional Journalists
  • Antonia Akrap, Kirkwood Call H.S. Newspaper

 The event is co-sponsored by Sponsors of School Publications (SSP); Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Gateway Journalism Review/St. Louis Journalism Review; Gateway Media Literacy Partners; St. Louis Media History Foundation and Mid-America Chapter of National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS).