Legal Brief for Tinker V. Des Moines (1969)

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Facts:In 1965 a group of individuals in Des Moines held a meeting to protest the Vietnam War. The group decided to fast and wear armbands as a sign of there disapproval. The principals of the Des Moines schools heard of the armband protest and adopted a policy banning any student from wearing the armbands at school. Any student caught wearing the armband at school would be asked to remove it, and if he refused he would be suspended until he returned without the armband. John Tinker and several other students decided to wear the black armbands to school and in return they were sent home until they would come back without the armband. The students did not return back to school until after New Years day. The complaint was filed in the United States District Court in which was dismissed due to the constitutional authority of the school to prevent disturbances.

Issue:The argument was whether the black armband was a disturbance at school. Would people find the armband offensive and did the school ban the students' right of free expression? The Court of Appeals considered the case and recognized that the black armbands were worn merely for expression. This was considered a type of symbolic expression written in the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

Decision of the Court:The court found that the banning of a silent expression of opinion was unconstitutional. The students did not disrupt or intruded on the schools affairs. Furthermore, the court did not express any opinion for the form of relief for the plaintiff. They decided to reverse the ruling and send it back to the lower court for nominal damage ruling.

Reasoning of the Court:The actions that the school made was reasonable but the fear of disturbance is not enough to justify the banning of the black armbands. The recorded showed that students in some schools wore buttons relating to the national political campaigns which was not included in the policy. The constitution prohibits...
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