Tinker V Des Moines Kuhlmieir V Hazelwood

Tinker V. Des Moines, Kuhlmieir V. Hazelwood Essay, Research Paper

Tinker v. Des Moines, Kuhlmieir v. Hazelwood

Scott Nagao 3/10/97 Period 7

About 32 years ago, in December of 1965, a group of adults and students

from Des Moines, Iowa gathered to show their dislike towards American

involvement in the Vietnam War. They decided to wear black armbands and fast on

December 16 and 31 to express there point. When the principals of the Des

Moines School System found out their plans, they decided to suspend anyone who

took part in this type of protest. On December 16 – 17 three Tinker siblings

and several of their friends were suspended for wearing the armbands. All of

them did not return to school until after New Years Day. Acting through their

parents, the Tinkers and some other students went to the Federal District Court,

asking for an injunction to be issued by Iowa. This court refused the idea,

forcing them to take the case to the Supreme Court. After hearing their case,

the Supreme Court agreed with the Tinkers. They said that wearing black

armbands was a silent form of expression and that students do not have to give

up their 1st Amendment rights at school. This landmark Supreme Court case was

known as Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District.

From the case of Tinker v. Des Moines Ind. School Board obviously came

some conflicting viewpoints about the armbands. The school board said that no

one has the absolute right to freedom of expression, where the Tinkers said that

only banning armbands and not other political symbols was unconstitutional. The

school board said that the armbands were disruptive to the learning environment,

where the Tinkers said they were not. Finally, the school board said that order

in the classroom, where political controversy should be discussed, is entitled

to constitutional protection. The Tinkers believed that the armbands were worn

as the students views, and therefore should be constitutionally protected and

respected by the school. These were all important arguments in the case.

Personally, I agree with the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the 1st

Amendment rights of the students in school. Why shouldn’t students have the

same rights as other people? If the students wore obscene clothing, ran out of

classrooms, or set the school on fire in protest of the war, then yes, I could

see disciplinary action being taken against them. However, the Tinkers simply

wore black armbands. Because this was not disruptive or obscene, I feel the

school should not have punished them.

Another landmark Supreme Court decision came in 1988 in the case of

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. In 1983 the principal of Hazelwood East

High School removed two articles from the school newspaper. He objected to

these articles because they described three students’ experiences with pregnancy

and divorce. He felt that topics such as these would be inappropriate for

student readers. The school board voted in favor of the principal’s action.

Cathy Kuhlmeier and several other students sued the school district in the U.S.

District Court of St. Louis. Despite claiming that their 1st and 14th Amendment

rights had been violated, the Court found no violations. After taking the case

to the United States Court of Appeals, their case was taken to United States

Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, however, also upheld the principal’s actions

finding no violation of their rights. They said that because the newspaper was

run by school officials, that it could be controlled by them, “so long as their

actions?related to legitimate pedagogical concerns?”.

This case also had some arguments to consider. The school district said

that students’ rights are not violated when educators use editorial control for

educational reasons. Kuhlmeier believed that this was unconstitutional. The

school district said that because the paper was not a public forum that

censorship was appropriate. Kuhlmeier believed that the paper was a public

forum, therefore, she should be able to express her opinion to the community.

Finally Hazelwood School District believed that educators were responsible for

controlling school publications because they reflect on the school itself.

Kuhlmeier believed that controlling school publications stifled the students’

free thought and expressions; it limited them to only school-approved subjects

or opinions.

In this case, I agree with Cathy Kuhlmeier. I am not saying that

certain subjects such as obscene and non-school related topics shouldn’t be

censored, because they should. However, in Kuhlmeier’s case, I feel that

pregnancy and divorce are issues that face students at school. Because of this,

I believe that the principal’s actions were wrong, and that the articles should

have been published.

In comparison, both of these cases shared some very similar qualities.

Both cases were composed of a student versus a school district. Both cases

ended up in the Supreme Court. But the biggest similarity was that both cases

concerned students’ rights at school, mainly the 1st and 14th Amendment, the

freedom of expression. Both plaintiffs felt that their rights were being

violated by the decisions and actions made by the school districts.

In contrast, the time periods in which these cases took place were very

different. In the 1960’s, the war in Vietnam was going on, and there were a lot

of controversial issues and viewpoints facing students at schools. In the

1980’s, the war was over and there weren’t as many controversial issues

surrounding students’ rights. One case involved freedom of expression through a

school newspaper, the other through articles of clothing, but the major

difference between the two cases were the decisions made by the U.S. Supreme

Court. They agreed with the Tinkers in the belief that freedom of expression

through armbands was okay. However, they disagreed with Cathy Kuhlmeier’s

belief in freedom of expression through a so-called public forum.

As a student, I believe that freedom of expression is one of our most

important rights. Without this right people won’t know who we are; they won’t

understand our generation. Because of the many different definitions of freedom

of expression, people will always be in controversy over them. Let’s hope that

our school district never faces a problem as big as the ones presented in this


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