Summary of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District
393 U.S. 503 (1969)
Facts: Petitioners wore black armbands to school in order to protest the war in Vietnam and were suspended. The lower federal courts upheld the action of the school authorities.
Issue: Did the actions of the school authorities violate petitioners’ 1st Amendment rights?
Rationale: This case involves “pure speech" which is entitled to comprehensive protection under the 1st Amendment. It is well accepted that students don’t leave their constitutional rights outside the school grounds when the enter the gate. A student has the right to express his opinion on the school grounds as long as the expression does not materially and substantially interfere with the operation of the school. In the current case, the petitioners did not involve themselves in some disruptive conduct. The school officials punished petitioners just because their expression caused mere discomfort and unpleasantness. This alone is not enough. Reversed.