Free Speech Icon Mary Beth Tinker going on nationwide Civics Education Bus Trip to American High Schools, Colleges

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June 19, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

1960s free speech icon from Supreme Court’s “armband case” seeks to boost free speech awareness and civics education by telling her story to students and teachers across America on “Tinker Tour.”

Washington, DC — Student free speech icon Mary Beth Tinker is headed to schools, colleges,  conventions this fall as part of a nationwide free speech/press and civics education tour.

Almost 50 years after she and other students in Des Moines, Iowa, were suspended for wearing black armbands to school to mourn those who had died in the Vietnam War — an act that led to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on student rights — Tinker successfully completed a crowdsourcing campaign this month to raise money for a bus tour across America.

“We are absolutely thrilled!” Tinker said. “This was all about teachers,  civil rights supporters, free speech defenders and students coming together to pass the message of the First Amendment on to a new generation. “

The 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines is discussed in most history and civics textbooks used in American schools today. [Image taken from The Americans: Reconstruction to the 21st Century. Houghton Milton.]

The 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines is discussed in most history and civics textbooks used in American schools today. [Image taken from The Americans: Reconstruction to the 21st Century. Houghton Milton.]

The Tinker ruling is still cited in nearly every student First Amendment case – almost 6,000 times so far, according to Lexus Nexus.  Because of its significance, it is included in almost every civics and history textbook.

Tinker is now a pediatric nurse, but speaks frequently with students about her case and the Constitution. Along with student rights attorney Mike Hiestand, they are looking to promote youth voices, free speech and a free press as part of  a “Tinker Tour.”

Tinker says they have already received nearly 200 invitations through their Web site to speak at schools and conventions during the 2013-14 school year. They have also lined up endorsements from more than two dozen of the country’s leading civics education, civil rights and journalism education and journalism advocacy groups. They have been invited by the National Constitution Center to kick off their tour in front of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia on Constitution Day (Sept. 17), where they will be joined by civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, and will be at the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 6 when the Tinker case is discussed by the Supreme Court Historical Society.   Later that month,  Tinker Tour stops include the Journalism Education Association and National Council for Social Studies national conventions.

In 2012, Mary Beth Tinker was included in the book 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed US History. The book also included such notable American figures as Rosa Parks, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein and Muhammad Ali. [Photo used with permission of Haymarket Books]

In 2012, Mary Beth Tinker was included in the book 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed US History. The book also included such notable American figures as Rosa Parks, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein and Muhammad Ali. [Photo used with permission of Haymarket Books]

“Almost 50 years ago, we made a difference with just an armband,” Tinker said. Now students have so many other tools available.  We look forward to hearing real-life stories about how students are using these tools-and their voices- to keep the First Amendment alive and make a difference!

Hiestand,  an attorney for 20 years with the Student Press Law Center, has provided legal assistance to nearly 15,000 high school and college student journalists and teachers. 

“It’s like having the opportunity to take someone like Rosa Parks on tour,” Hiestand said.  “I sometimes feel like I’m in one of those wonderful, feel-good Disney movies, but it’s real-life!”

Tinker and Hiestand raised over $50,000 through StartSomeGood.com, but their goal is $115,000 for a six month tour.  They are also seeking  a reliable bus or RV to borrow or rent.

The Tinker Tour is a special project of the nonprofit Student Press Law Center, a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) organization with nearly four decades of experience in supporting youth voices.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Tinker Tour Web site: www.tinkertourusa.org

or contact

Beverly Keneagy, Student Press Law Center (703) 807-1904

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