The hallways were cold inside of Harding Jr. High School from the Winter air. Thirteen-year-old Mary Beth Tinker was called out of her eighth grade math class regarding the simple black armband with a white peace sign she was wearing. Sitting down with the girl’s adviser, Mary Beth was demanded to take off the band. With compliance she did, but little did she know that would not be the end of her fight with the First Amendment.
Mary Beth Tinker was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa where her brother John and her decided to make objections to the hostilities in Vietnam and their support for a truce by wearing black armbands during the holiday season. With the opposing ideas, Tinker v. Des Moines progressed all the way to the Supreme Court.
“I was so scared, I was in eighth grade and my math teacher Mr.Moberly sent me down to the office with this pink slip. I was really scared and nervous,” Mary Beth Tinker said. “I was this young good student, never got in trouble and I was very shy.”
Sitting in the office of the girls adviser, Tinker was faced with a difficult challenge that would change history.
“So when I got down there my girls adviser told me there was a rule that was against arm bands and that I had to take it off. At that point, I took it off and handed it to her. I had lost courage,” Tinker said.
Although the arm sash was off for a day, the fight for what they believed in was not over. The Tinkers took this case to court to fight against the school board for breaching their first amendment.
“That Christmas there were people who threatened to bomb our house, but even with that, it was all worth it,” Tinker said. “It was actually a very good experience, when you stand up and speak about something you care about it can get very interesting and meaningful and it can even be fun.”
Now that Tinker travels and speaks freely to students, she realizes how big of an impact she has made.
“Through this I learned that with a little bit of courage, you will be amazed with what a huge difference you can make. I have also found that it is a better way of life to be able to stand up and fight for what you believe.”