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Let’s celebrate a #tinkerversary


by Candace Bowen, MJE
First of a series
“I had no idea our small action would lead to something so consequential,” Mary Beth Tinker told recently.

Now, 50 years after the Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines students and teachers don’t “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,” it’s clear Mary Beth, her brother John and Chris Eckhardt have made a difference in the voices of students for generations.

Students from Harding Middle School join the Tinkers, SPLC senior legal counsel Mike Hiestand and Dr. Thomas Ahart, Superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools as they dedicate a Harding locker to Mary Beth Tinker. (photo by Candace Bowen)

This year – 2019 The Year of the Student Journalist– is the perfect time to celebrate this #tinkerversary.” Feb. 24, 2019 marks half a century since Justice Abe Fortas wrote his decision that still stands today and has helped student journalists and others have their say.

With this decision, students can’t disrupt the school process or invade the rights of others, but they definitely can present their views, particularly about political issues.

For that reason, Mary Beth and John will visit Iowa where their school suspensions occurred and talk with students about their situations now and what the Tinker decision means.

“Tinker Turns 50” will include a series of events with students in grade schools on up through universities.

Others from across the country can join them through the live streaming of a program and Q&A at the State Historical Museum of Iowa. Presented by Iowa Public Television, it will cover a look at the case and its impact and will begin 12:30 p.m. CST Friday, Feb. 22.

Mary Beth and John Tinker talk to Dr. Thomas Ahart, Superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools. (Photo by Candace Bowen)

To receive a reminder as the date nears, educators can RSVP if they wish. (The video will be archived and available for later viewing as well.)

Students and teachers are encouraged to submit questions to be considered for the Q&A with Mary Beth and John Tinker via Twitter using the hashtag #tinkerversary or by completing this online form in advance of the event.

The Tinkers will visit schools in Des Moines, Ames and Iowa City. A complete schedule runs from Feb. 18 – 28.  You’ll have lots of ways to participate, too, even if you’re not in Iowa. I created two lesson plans – one for high school students and one for middle school, using the Journalism Education Association curriculum format (with Common Core Standards, etc.).

Those and other ideas and educational resources are available so you can plan ahead.

Mary Beth Tinker talked to students from Harding Middle School as part of the Tinker Tour in 2013. She attended this school in 1965 when she was suspended for wearing a black armband. (photo by Candace Bowen)

I will join them for several days, including visits to my junior high (Callanan) and high school (Roosevelt), and posting a blog and photos on this site between Feb. 20 and 25. I’ll update everyone on the students they meet and the stories they tell.

These activities are made possible by Des Moines Public Schools, C-SPAN, Iowa Public TV, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union, Student Press Law Center, and others.

You can help, too, by donating directly or through the Student Press Law Center.

Plan to learn from the #tinkerversary and find ways to let more students use their voices.






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