Tinker vs. Des Moines was the first landmark Supreme Court case in favor of students’ free speech rights, fought by three young peace activists from public schools in Iowa, suspended from their schools for civil disobedience in expressing their unpopular antiwar beliefs against the school board policy. I am a very outspoken person and enjoy spirited debates, so I was excited when I found this topic, which could teach me more about my free speech rights. This project turned out to be very educational. I am glad I chose this topic because I learned about the courage of students almost my age, First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and most importantly, that our rights come with responsibilities.
I started my online research on the background of the Vietnam War and the court part of my topic, which were a challenge for me in the beginning. However the book by Marcia Lusted helped me understand the legal terms and the book ”Struggle for Student’s Rights” were of tremendous help as they explained the life and beliefs of the students and very important source of otherwise difficult to find information on Christopher Eckhardt’s role in this case. These books led me to the Des Moines Register, which became my most valuable primary source as it had articles published on almost a daily basis as the events were happening. These articles helped me understand the courage of these students to persevere, despite oppositions. I used many articles and pictures from the Des Moines Register throughout my website. I really enjoyed my personal interviews, with both Mary Beth and John Tinker. I was able to understand their beliefs in peace and equal rights since childhood. Because of the controversy involving students’ free speech rights, I interviewed Mr. Robert Corn Revere to understand the importance and legacy of the Tinker ruling. Also, an interview with a school official was important and Dr. Thomas Tucker confirmed the changes in schools following the Tinker decision. I was fortunate to contact Mr. Edward Eckhardt, Christopher Eckhardt's older brother, who provided me information on Christopher Eckhardt’s' childhood.
I chose the website because it was best for my project and I could display all the articles and pictures in interactive slideshows or galleries and it gave me an opportunity to learn computer skills and edit the HTML coding. As I developed my website, I first wrote the story in a word document and then created different pages, placing images and quotes to support my words. During my project, I learned to conduct thorough research, organizational skills, and developed confidence to interview accomplished people.
Tinker vs. Des Moines connects to this year’s theme, Taking a Stand in History, because these three ordinary but courageous students stood up for their beliefs and students free speech rights and changed many people’s views, including school officials, on student participation in matters that are important in their lives. These three students changed the old saying, "students should be seen, not heard."