Freedom of speech is a right, through the amended Constitution of our nation, afforded to all natural born citizens of the Untied States. So why is it that students are subject to a lower level of this right? There have been numerous court cases in which students have challenged the “powers that be” in order to protect their rights as citizens of the United States. These cases had various verdicts, not because students do not have the same right to freedom of speech as adults do, but because there are other laws that conflict with where and when a student has the right to exercise that right. Under law, schools are non-public forums. A public forum is a place open to all the types of expression protected under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. Since schools are non-public forums, they are subject to different regulations, ones stated by the government of a schools respective state. There is no doubt that students have the right to express how they feel, however, as Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas put it, “Students are possessed of fundamental rights which the state must respect just as themselves must respect their obligation to the state”.
The case of Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969) was the first in which a student challenged a federal institution. In December of 1965, John Tinker (15), Mary Beth Tinker (13), and Christopher Eckhardt (16) decided to wear black armbands with peace signs on them to school, showcasing their opposition to the Vietnam War. The principal, in response, suspended the three students from school until January 1, 1966, the day after their silent protest was slated to end. The Tinker parents immediately filed suit against the Des Moines School District in the U.S. District Court where the judge upheld the decision of the School District. After the suit tied in verdict in the Court of Appeals, it went to the Supreme Court on November 11