Mary Beth and John Tinker

Date: February 26, 2019, 7:30 PM
Location: Senate Chamber, Old Capitol Museum

In December 1965, Mary Beth and John Tinker decided to wear black armbands to school to protest the war in Vietnam. When the Des Moines Public School Board got wind of the upcoming protest, they passed a preemptive ban. When Mary Beth arrived at school on December 16, she was asked to remove her armband. When she refused, she was sent home. Four other students were suspended, including her brother John Tinker. The students were told they could not return to school until they agreed to remove their armbands.

Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the students and their families embarked on a four-year court battle that culminated in the landmark Supreme Court decision: Tinker v. Des Moines. On February 24, 1969, the Court ruled 7-2 that students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."

Mary Beth and John continue to educate young people about their rights, speaking frequently to students groups across the country. Advocates for the rights of youth, particularly in the areas of health and education, Mary Beth and John are dedicated to a nationwide effort to increase youth civic engagement. In 2000, the Marshall-Brennan Project at Washington College of Law at American University named its annual youth advocacy award after Mary Beth.

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