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New Online Exhibit Documenting Landmark First Amendment Case Tinker v. Des Moines

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Launching for Law Day 2022

St. Louis – After spending years on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., the famous black armband once worn by Mary Beth Tinker is now on loan to the U.S. Courts and the Judicial Learning Center in St. Louis.  The learning center, on the first floor of the Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse, has the armband on public display along with an educational exhibit about the historic U.S.  Supreme Court case decided in 1969.

The exhibit officially opened following a small ceremony on December 15, 2021, in recognition of Bill of Rights Day, the anniversary of the first ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  That day, Mary Beth Tinker spoke virtually at the opening ceremony and during a Street Law-hosted student webinar.

To celebrate Law Day, recognized by the legal community on May 1, the online version of the exhibit is launching this week.  Hosted on the website of the Judicial Learning Center, the web exhibit mirrors what can be seen in person at the courthouse.

What is Tinker v. Des Moines?  In 1965, several students in Des Moines, Iowa, wore black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War and to honor the dead on both sides.  When punished, the students and their families brought a federal lawsuit against the school district.  The case moved through the court system, including two stops before the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis.  Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the students, stating that public school students and teachers do not shed their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate.

According to the website of the First Amendment Center in Washington, D.C., this landmark ruling sets the standard for when public schools may or may not censor student expression.  The precedent set in Tinker continues to be cited in First Amendment cases, including the recent student speech case decided by the Supreme Court, Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., involving a Pennsylvania high school cheerleader’s infamous Snapchat posts.

“We are thrilled and proud that Mary Beth Tinker agreed to display this reminder of one of the most important student speech cases. In 1969, the Court ruled that the armband was a form of symbolic speech, and today in the Judicial Learning Center, it is a symbol of why the judicial branch is important in our lives.” said Judge Rodney W. Sippel, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court, Eastern Missouri.

How to visit:

  • The Judicial Learning Center is open to the public during the same hours as the Eagleton Courthouse
  • For questions or to schedule a group tour, contact:

Rachel Marshall, Public Education and Community Outreach
U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit and U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri
(314)244-2410 -

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