Tinker v. Des Moines Sch. Dist.
393 U.S. 503 (1969)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Tinker v. Des Moines Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969)

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District

No. 21

Argued November 12, 1968

Decided February 24, 1969

393 U.S. 503

Syllabus

Petitioners, three public school pupils in Des Moines, Iowa, were suspended from school for wearing black armbands to protest the Government's policy in Vietnam. They sought nominal damages and an injunction against a regulation that the respondents had promulgated banning the wearing of armbands. The District Court dismissed the complaint on the ground that the regulation was within the Board's power, despite the absence of any finding of substantial interference with the conduct of school activities. The Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, affirmed by an equally divided court.

Held:

1. In wearing armbands, the petitioners were quiet and passive. They were not disruptive, and did not impinge upon the rights of others. In these circumstances, their conduct was within the protection of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth. Pp. 393 U. S. 505-506.

2. First Amendment rights are available to teachers and students, subject to application in light of the special characteristics of the school environment. Pp. 393 U. S. 506-507.

3. A prohibition against expression of opinion, without any evidence that the rule is necessary to avoid substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others, is not permissible under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 393 U. S. 507-514.

383 F.2d 988, reversed and remanded.

Page 393 U. S. 504

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Primary Holding

Since First Amendment protections extend to students in public schools, educational authorities who want to censor speech will need to show that permitting the speech would significantly interfere with the discipline needed for the school to function.