This case summary provides teachers with everything they need to teach about Tinker v. Des Moines (1969). It contains background information in the form of summaries and important vocabulary at three different reading levels, as well a review of relevant legal concepts, diagram of how the case moved through the court system, and summary of the decision. This resource also includes seven classroom-ready activities that teach about the case using interactive methods.
Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Anthony M. Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor and students discuss the First Amendment’s right to free speech, and in particular students’ free speech rights in the Supreme Court cases Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District and Morse v. Frederick. In the Tinker case, students wore black armbands to school in silent protest of the Vietnam War. In the Morse case, a student held up a sign that said “Bong HITS 4 Jesus” at a parade.
In a 19th Amendment video, produced by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for use in classrooms, courtrooms, and the distance-learning space, an unlikely connection is made between two rights activists from different eras. Suffragette Virginia Minor and Vietnam war protester Mary Beth Tinker were separated by 100 years, but their passions came together in the legal history of the nation and of St. Louis, where they each worked through the courts to make social change. Both cases were decided – with different outcomes – by the Supreme Court of the United States.
As part of the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution, but it is not defined by it. That task is left up to the people through a representative government that makes the laws and a judicial system that interprets and applies the laws to resolve disputes. In this lesson, based on the Annenberg Classroom video “A Conversation on the Constitution: Freedom of Speech,” students gain insight into the many challenges involved in defining and protecting free speech. They also learn about principles that come from Supreme Court decisions and case law that are applied to define the limits for us today.
Apply what you learned about constitutional exceptions to the First Amendment by studying a modern situations. Be sure to summarize the facts of the situation and then present your opinion about whether the actions of the individual in the scenario were protected by the First Amendment. If you disagree with the court, school or law enforcement’s decision, be sure to explain why you disagree.