Why should students wear black armbands?
Answer: To celebrate.
Not to protest the war.
Not to protest cold winter temperatures nor how the economy is affecting their college plans.
But they wear them to honor a 40-year-old U. S. Supreme Court decision.
Tinker v. Des Moines, originally about the right to wear black armbands to protest an unpopular war, laid the framework for successes in scholastic journalism since then.
Tinker’s spirit contributed as:
- A New Jersey student was allowed to publish his inoffensive movie review the R-rated “Mississippi Burning” after his principal had refused to let him
- Katy Dean successfully fought against censorship in Michigan so she could print an article about the possibility of fumes from a bus garage contributing to cancer among neighbors
- Citizens throughout the nation became more aware of the importance of student freedom of expression because of censorship
- That awareness contributed to the founding of an organization to help students, advisers and school officials better understand the importance of free student expression, the Student Press Law Center
- Then the SPLC and others developed policies that recognize the importance of students learning by using their critical thinking and decision-making skills.
By honoring Tinker and encouraging students to wear black armbands this spring, we reinforce the heritage and civic responsibility our forefathers began by taking a giant chance that we, as a country, could govern ourselves through citizen involvement and decision-making.
Mark Goodman, Knight Chair for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University, called Tinker the most important Supreme Court precedent supporting the future of the First Amendment.
“The Tinker decision reflects the fundamental belief that young people are a vital part of our national debate and are no less deserving of basic civil rights than any adult,” Goodman said. “In more recent years, some have forgotten that, including some on the Supreme Court. But our future as a nation depends on it.”