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Law School Case Brief

Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist. - 258 F. Supp. 971 (S.D. Iowa 1966)


An individual's right of free speech is protected against state infringement by the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. The wearing of an arm band for the purpose of expressing certain views is a symbolic act and falls within the protection of the first amendment's free speech clause. However, the protections of that clause are not absolute. The abridgement of speech by a state regulation must always be considered in terms of the object the regulation is attempting to accomplish and the abridgement of speech that actually occurs. In each case courts must ask whether the gravity of the "evil," discounted by its improbability, justifies such invasion of free speech as is necessary to avoid the danger


Students wore arm bands protesting the Vietnam War to school in violation of school regulation. They were sent home. The students brought suit against the school district for nominal damages and for injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983


Was the school district's regulation an unreasonable abridgement of free speech?




The federal district court entered judgment in favor of the school district. The court held that the school district's regulation was not an unreasonable abridgement of free speech because the arm bands could have been disruptive. The students could wear arm bands elsewhere, so their free speech was not unduly infringed.

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