For Immediate Release
September 26, 2013
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BROCKPORT, NY—The principal figure in a landmark United States Supreme Court decision came to The College at Brockport, State University of New York, on Sept. 26 to share her story.
Mary Beth Tinker was part of a small group of students in Iowa in 1965 who wore black armbands to school to mourn the dead in the Vietnam War and call for a Christmas truce. After being suspended for their actions, the students ultimately prevailed before the Supreme Court. In 1969 the Court declared that neither teachers or students “shed their Constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
The Tinker vs. Des Moines ruling continues to protect students’ rights today and has been cited by judges in nearly 6,000 student cases.
"It was a great victory," Tinker told a crowd of roughly 200 students in Brockport's Seymour College Union, "not just for us, but for all of you."
Tinker and First Amendment attorney Mike Hiestand are currently touring the country to share her story and discuss how today’s students can utilize modern technology—particularly social media—to make a substantial impact on society.
"There are so many problems in society today," Hiestand said. "But thankfully we also have enormous and powerful speech tools."
Tinker's message to the students was to not take their First Amendment rights for granted. She encouraged them to use their rights to make a difference.
"Your rights are like your muscles," she said. "If you don't use them, you lose them."
Tinker’s lecture was sponsored by Brockport’s American Democracy Project, with additional support from Brockport’s Department of Communication, The Stylus (Brockport’s weekly student newspaper), and the College’s student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
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