The Warren Court (1953–69)

Freedom of Expression

What did the Warren Court do for students’ First Amendment rights?

The Warren Court protected public school students’ First Amendment rights in its 1969 decision Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. The Court ruled that Des Moines, Iowa, public school officials violated the free-expression rights of several students when they suspended them for wearing black armbands to protest U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. School officials singled out black armbands as forbidden symbols, allowing students to wear other symbols such as iron crosses. The Court ruled 7–2 that the students’ act of wearing the black armbands was a form of symbolic speech “akin” to pure speech. The case also established the Tinker standard, which provides that school officials cannot censor student expression unless they can reasonably forecast that it will create a substantial disruption of school activities or invade the rights of others.


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