Do you use document-based questions in your classroom?
This summer the Bill of Rights Institute is blogging a document-based question on the Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines (1969). Each weekly post will feature an excerpted document related to the case, along with some questions to guide your thinking on it. Each document should be used to address the question: “Evaluate the extent to which the First Amendment should protect symbolic speech, and the degree to which that protection should be guaranteed to students in public school.”
Check out our previous posts for a case background and document #1, document #2, West Virginia v. Barnette, document #3, a picture of Vietnam War protestors outside the White House, document #4, a collection of “Hate Mail” received by the Tinker Family, and document #5 part of the Oral Arguments for the case.
Today’s document is Oral Arguments from the School’s Case, Tinker v. Des Moines, 1969 – Number 6:
Herrick [representing the Des Moines Independent School District]: [T]he right of freedom of speech or the right of demonstration in the schoolroom and on the school premises must be weighed against the right of the school administration to make a decision which the administration, in good faith, believe and its discretion was reasonable to preserve order and to avoid disturbance and disruption in the schoolroom…
[I]t was a matter of the explosive situation that existed in the Des Moines schools at the time the regulation was adopted. …A former student of one of our high schools was killed in Vietnam. Some of his friends are still in school. It was felt that if any kind of demonstration existed, it might evolve into something which would be difficult to control.
Justice Marshall: Do we have a city in the country that hasn’t had someone killed in Vietnam?
Herrick: No, I think not your honor. but, I don’t think it would be an explosive situation in most, in most cases, but if someone is going to appear in court with an armband here protesting the thing, then it could be explosive. That’s the situation we find here….
Marshall: It could be [explosive]. Is that your position?
Herrick: Yes. It could be.
Think About it:
What “explosive situation” does Mr. Herrick claim motivated the school to suspend students for wearing armbands?
How does this impact your answer to the DBQ question: “Evaluate the extent to which the First Amendment should protect symbolic speech, and the degree to which that protection should be guaranteed to students in public school.”
Check back each week to see the next document and how it might change your thinking on this important question that affects all public school teachers and students in the U.S.!
If you are enjoying this DBQ – be sure to check out our curriculum Supreme Court DBQs: Exploring the Cases the Changed History.
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