“Tinker v. Des Moines” activists visit West High

Last Tuesday, Mary Beth and John Tinker visited West High to talk to students about their experience in the groundbreaking supreme court case, Tinker V. Des Moines.


Sean Brown

Mary Beth Tinker and John Tinker speak to students in the West High Arganbright Auditorium on Tuesday, Feb. 26 about the hardships they faced while trying to protect their freedom of speech while protesting the Vietnam War.

Jillian Prescott

Harry Westergaard, Arts Editor, Co-Copy Editor

On Tuesday, Feb. 26, Mary Beth and John Tinker came to visit Iowa City West High to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ruling of their court case, Tinker v. Des Moines. In February 1969 the Supreme Court ruled that it was under the student’s first amendment rights to wear armbands protesting the Vietnam War. The case was a breakthrough in student free speech laws and has continued to be influential in the consideration of student’s rights.

Now the Tinkers tour across the United States to share their story and to celebrate the rights students have to free speech. The stop at West High was one of the first of this year’s “Tinker Tour” across the state of Iowa.

The event was held in the Arganbright Auditorium during fifth hour. The Tinkers began by recounting the story of their protest and the eventual court ruling.

After that, the Tinkers spent the duration of the class period taking answers from the audience. Students were very vocal, and during this period the speakers touched upon pressing issues from the present day such as gun violence and LGBTQ+ rights, as well as other events they recalled from the late ’60s, including the Birmingham church bombing and ensuing protests. Their stories showed how many of the issues they faced in the sixties still ring true for students today. 

The Tinkers stressed the importance of taking a stance and how a person often isn’t aware that they’re making history while it’s happening. “History is usually made by the little small things you do,” Mary Beth Tinker commented in an intimate discussion with the WSS staff after the event.