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TINKER v. DES MOINES SCHOOL DIST.

DV Tinman      Monday, February 25, 2019

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     In December of 1965, a small group of students in the Des Moines School District executed a silent protest against the escalation of United States troop involvement in Vietnam (from 23,000 and 216 KIA in 1964 to 184,000 and 1,928 KIA in 1965). Their protest consisted of wearing black arm bands. Having heard of the plan, the school board had issued a preemptive policy banning the wearing of these arm bands. The students disregarded the ban and were subsequently suspended.

     Four years later the case made its way to the Supreme Court of the United States in Tinker v. Des Moines Board of Education. In a 7-2 ruling the court ruled that the students did have the right to protest on school grounds provided it did not disrupt the business of the school nor infringe on the rights of others. Both the Majority and Dissenting opinions can be found here (Click here for the Court's Ruling).

 

Points that stand out to me in the majority opinion:

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     In our system, state-operated schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism. School officials do not possess absolute authority over their students. Students in school as well as out of school are "persons" under our Constitution. They are possessed of fundamental rights which the State must respect, just as they themselves must respect their obligations to the State. In our system, students may not be regarded as closed-circuit recipients of only that which the State chooses to communicate. They may not be confined to the expression of those sentiments that are officially approved. In the absence of a specific showing of constitutionally valid reasons to regulate their speech, students are entitled to freedom of expression of their views. As Judge Gewin, speaking for the Fifth Circuit, said, school officials cannot suppress "expressions of feelings with which they do not wish to contend." Burnside v. Byars, supra, at 749.



     "In order to submerge the individual and develop ideal citizens, Sparta assembled the males at seven into barracks and intrusted their subsequent education and training to official guardians. Although such measures have been deliberately approved by men of great genius, their ideas touching the relation between individual and State were wholly different from those upon which our institutions rest; and it hardly will be affirmed that any legislature could impose such restrictions upon the people of a [393 U.S. 503, 512]   State without doing violence to both letter and spirit of the Constitution."



     Under our Constitution, free speech is not a right that is given only to be so circumscribed that it exists in principle but not in fact. Freedom of expression would not truly exist if the right could be exercised only in an area that a benevolent government has provided as a safe haven for crackpots. The Constitution says that Congress (and the States) may not abridge the right to free speech. This provision means what it says. We properly read it to permit reasonable regulation of speech-connected activities in carefully restricted circumstances. But we do not confine the permissible exercise of First Amendment rights to a telephone booth or the four corners of a pamphlet, or to supervised and ordained discussion in a school classroom.



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     This ruling has had far reaching affects. It has been cited in subsequent court cases protecting a students’ rights to wear anti-abortion slogans, critical commentary against public/elected officials, and very recently the protest surrounding the shootings in Parkland, Florida. Amazingly, however, some schools have not viewed wearing a United States Flag as protected but rather as inciteful.

     My mechanical brain may not be the fastest, but everything I mentioned beside the Parkland, Florida protests fall square in the letter and intent of this ruling. Speech, especially protected speech, is often upsetting. It is protected so it can not be stifled. The walk-outs after the school shooting disrupted the function and business of the school. That said, the reality of the situation was the students were going and the school had a separate legal responsibility for their safety … so I will leave that one on the side line.

     So, why isn’t the wearing of patriotic clothing protected? Isn’t my freedom, my child’s freedom protected as much as the others? In today’s era, I am seeing that it is less and less as equal. I will tell you the truth, I am very regimented in my thinking. If something is a truth it must always be true. If something isn’t always true it should not be upheld for the select (whatever that popular select group is). I support Kaepernick’s right to kneel. It pisses me the fuck off, but I support his right to do it… and isn’t that the point of a protest to cause an uncomfortable reaction in the observer so they, hopefully, think about it? I support BLM’s right to march, for anyone to say just about anything. I fucking served 27 years defending these rights, I think they should be exercised. What I don’t support are selective support. I don’t support people who protest a right to protest. I don’t support hypocrisy where this group is hailed and cheered because we like what they say, and we call for laws to prevent another group from disrupting our day because we don’t like what they say.

     I find boycotts, for the most part, silly. Someone says something you don’t like, they support a political position you disagree with, and now we need to not buy their product. 1) Boycotts don’t work. To boycott a company, you really must stop buying everything. Since these multi-conglomerations are so intertwined it is like going to a West Virginia family reunion – the whole state shows up. 2) Most people want to boycott something they don’t buy anyway… Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream comes to mind. 3) Fuck that, aren’t we better with different ideas and opinions? Isn’t that where the truth lies, between what I know, and you know and what John Q. Public knows? Why boycott someone who doesn’t agree with you?

     Best way to stop speech you don’t like… Don’t. Just ignore it; or listen to it knowing you don’t have to agree nor change your opinion. Don’t give it more publicity. The students with black arm bands would have been ignored in the matter of a week, the BLM movement would have stayed on focus and not gone to the extremes that I saw reported if those opinions weren’t fed.

     Oh, and what the fuck does any of this have to do with anything? Don’t discount the kids. They haven’t been indoctrinated by the man, or the commies, or big pharma, or whomever you wear a tin hat against. They will be mostly wrong, but their opinions will make you think about the “why?” and you might find there is some tweaking to be done on your “truths” of life if you answer those “whys.”


Now, Go fuck Yourself. (you too, I know you are hiding back there).

 

Article written by: DV Tinman - Residential Naval Tube Expert & DV Mod

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