Student Rights Icon Inspires Students

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

After a solid year of traveling over 25,000 miles across 41 states and speaking to at least 100 schools and community groups, on May 1st the Tinker Tour made its final stop at Mountlake Terrace High School. The tour features First Amendment advocate Mary Beth Tinker, the namesake of the landmark student rights case Tinker v. Des Moines, joined by former Student Press Law Center attorney Mike Hiestand.  More than 100 students, some traveling from as far away as Granger, came for an educational event sponsored by the ACLU-WA and the Washington Journalism Education Association (WJEA). 

Tinker and Hiestand encouraged the students to learn more about their rights and to go out into the world and make a difference.  They began with a high five and had students name off parts of the 1st Amendment, handing them shirts that said: i write, i gather, i speak, i believe, and i petition. Tinker recalled seeing news coverage of children marching in Montgomery, Alabama as the police doused them with fire hoses and let police dogs attack them. Tinker thought that if those children could make a difference, perhaps she could.

History shows that Tinker make a profound difference.  She was just 13 years old and living in Des Moines, Iowa when she wore a black armband to school to protest the Vietnam War. Little did she know that her small act of free speech would generate an ACLU case that would go all the way to the Supreme Court and lead to a ruling that serves as the foundation for free speech rights for public school students to this day. 

It was fitting that the tour wrapped up at Mountlake Terrace High. It is one of only six First Amendment Press Freedom Schools in the country – meaning that the school has made a commitment to promoting and maintaining free speech for its students.  It also has a very engaged student newspaper, the Hawkeye.

It’s not every day you get to hear and meet someone you read about in your high school history books. And it’s even rarer to experience the First Amendment at its best in a high school. It was truly a memorable experience, both for the high school students and me. 

You can view the event by clicking here.  

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