Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District is regarded as one of the most influential decisions of the United States Supreme Court. Tinker owes its distinguished status to its position as the Court’s first decision to affirmatively uphold students’ First Amendment rights and to the popularity of public school cases. These cases do, after all, draw more than their fair share of attention because “a single case can tremendously change longstanding community paradigms.” In time spent, public schools are a second home to most American children; hence, the rules applicable to schools vividly impact the country. The Tinker Court held that a student retains her First Amendment rights while at school so long as her speech does not “materially and substantially disrupt” the school. Tinker can be seen as a quid-pro-quo balancing of student rights and school responsibilities: while at school, a student’s First Amendment rights necessarily yield to the school’s duty to teach required subjects and keep order; while at home, however, a student enjoys full First Amendment rights because his or her speech does not have the potential to interrupt school activities. While this arrangement reflected the reality of technological limitations in 1969, the proliferation of internet use changed the second part of the equation by empowering a student to impact the operation of the school from home.
Lee C. Baxter,
The Unrealistic Geographic Limitations of the Supreme Court's School-Speech Precedents: Tinker in the Internet Age,
75 Mont. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.umt.edu/mlr/vol75/iss1/4