What A Difference 50 Years -& A Supreme Court Victory- Makes!

Great things are going on in the Des Moines schools.  Music, drama, poetry, art, debate, journalism… with so many student voices coming alive. We celebrated them in December, as part of a 50th “Tinker anniversary” week.  Here’s a review by the Des Moines Public Schools, with a great video made by Jonathan Lemons.

Mary Beth & John in awe of student artwork at Harding. Breakdancing wizard Asan (on left) with art mentors Phate & Leter

Mary Beth & John admire student artwork at Harding with  breakdancing wizard Asan (on left) and art mentors Phate & Leter

 

Fifty years ago-  December 15th and 16th, 1965 – students were suspended in Des Moines for wearing black armbands to mourn the dead in Vietnam.  Today’s students seem no closer to peace than ever, but some things have changed.  For one, the Des Moines schools are committed to encouraging youth voices.  Thank you, Superintendent Tom Ahart for your visionary leadership.  And, thank you, principals, students, teachers- and everyone who gave us a warm welcome.

There is plenty to still to mourn for today- the sorrows of the Vietnam War continue for many (See one teacher’s way of coping.)   The tragedy of the Iraq War and its continuing aftermath continues.  But there IS hope for a better, more peaceful way, and youth voices are helping to take us there.

Movement 515

Every school district should have such a program, which helps youth express themselves through the creative arts.  With Movement 515, students create poetry, music, art, essays and more – all about current social justice issues, and the issues of their lives.

Social Justice display in the halls of Harding MS

Student work in the halls of Harding MS

Oak Park art work

Oak Park art work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the festivities of the 50th anniversary were held at Roosevelt HS, where most of the planning for the 1965 armband action in 1965 took place.

IMG_1297

 

It was great to be in Des Moines, but we missed our friend and fellow plaintiff, Chris Eckhard, A Roosevelt alumni who died in 2012. Here’s to you, Chris, and the next 50 years of students standing up for their rights!

Chris Eckhardt with his mother, Maggie and father, Bill attend the School Board meeting

Chris Eckhardt and parents, 1965

The first day in Des Moines, we visited with 5th graders in five elementary schools.   Lots of energy, and lots of things kids want to stand up about, from bullying to uniforms to racial justice, violence,  gum chewing (“how come teachers can, but we can’t?”) and more.

First stop: Oak Park Elementary School, where students are interested in their rights, and like to sing.  We sang “This Little Light of Mine” with them, and students told us some of the things they want to speak up about:

Hope, Mary Beth and Paul at Oak Park

Hope, Mary Beth and Paul tell Oak Park students how it felt to stand up against war 50 years ago.  The kids said they stand up against bullying.

 

 

 

Thanks, Principal Fee!

Thanks, Principal Fee- We had a great time!

 

On to Madison Elementary, where Hope was in 5th grade when she wore a black armband to school on December 16th, 1965,  saying  “I want peace, too!”  There was no rule against armbands in the elementary schools, so she wasn’t suspended.

Thanks, Principal Cory Heaberlin, for your warm welcome 50 years later!

Hey, Hope! Did you sell cookie dough in 1965 too?

Hey, Hope! Did you sell cookie dough in 1965 too?

Students at Madison want to do many things to make the world better, like ending child abuse. Others have heard about Harding Middle School’s new dress code, and they’re not sure they like it.

Madison students know how to make you feel welcome!

Madison students make us feel welcome!

 

Back in 1965, Hope’s teacher at Madison, Linda Ordway, stood up for Hope on the playground, telling students that in democracy, “everyone has a right to their beliefs.”  Thanks, Ms. Ordway!

 

Hope with Ms. Ordway and "little brother," Paul Tinkerhess

Hope, center, with Ms. Ordway and “little brother,” Paul Tinkerhess

 

Linda Ordway  surprised us all by coming to meet us and talk with Madison’s 5th graders.  When they asked how she felt when she saw Hope wearing an armband back in 1965, she said she felt that Hope should be able to express herself,  and that she believed in peace, too.

 

 

 

Next stop:  Findley Elementary School, where kids use their rights to speak up…& recycle!

 

Surrounded by energetic students are Hope Tinker, Paul Tinkerhess, and Mary Beth. Thanks, principal Fee, and everybody!

Energetic Findley students with Hope Tinker, Paul Tinkerhess, and Mary Beth 

 

Stop the bottles, but in the meantime, recycle!

Stop the bottles! In the meantime, Findley recycles!

 

Findley Principal, Barb Adams and teachers welcome the Tinkers

Findley teachers and principal, Barb Adams, 2nd from right, welcome the Tinkers

 

On to Moulton Elementary School, where Principal Eric Van Dorin welcomes the Tinkers…

 

Moulton students give a cheer for the First Amendment

Moulton students give a cheer for the First Amendment!

 

Moulton kids love "Color My Rights" coloring books! Thanks, Principal Van Dorin for hosting the Tinkers!

…and Moulton kids love “Color My Rights” coloring books, too!

 

The last elementary school, Cattell, was a special stop, since Paul Tinkerhess wore an armband there when he was in 2nd grade, December 16th, 1965.  Yes, 8 year-olds want peace, too!

This year, principal Tiona Sandbulte led the festivities.

At Cattell Elementary

Lots of comments and questions at Cattell Elementary: “What did your parents think, and your friends?”

 

Lenny Tinker, Mary Beth's son, passes out coloring books

Lenny, Mary Beth’s son, passes out 1st Amendment coloring books at Cattell 

Paul sang the Cattell  song, but it’s changed in 50 years. Still, everyone appreciated his spirit.

"To Cattell I'll be true!"

Paul Tinkerhess: “To Cattell I’ll be true!”

 

The next day, it was off to Roosevelt High School, where most of the armband plan was hatched, way back in December of 1965.  This year, Principal Kevin Biggs rolled out the red carpet….

Bridges to Harmony choir at Roosevelt HS inspires us with "Waiting on the World To Change," Lift Every Voice" and others.

Bridges to Harmony choir at Roosevelt HS inspires us with “Waiting on the World To Change,” Lift Every Voice” and more. Beautiful!

In 1965, the black armband plan came out of a community meeting at the home of Chris Eckhardt, who was in 10th grade at Roosevelt HS.  Students Bruce Clark and Ross Peterson then got about 50 kids to sign up to wear armbands, but most of them changed their minds when the principals outlawed armbands. Three students were suspended: Chris, Chris Singer and Bruce Clark.

Bruce Clark teaches Roosevelt students about the Vietnam war, and why he helped organize a protest against it. "There supposed to be an election there in 1954, but the US was afraid of the results."

Bruce Clark,  tells Roosevelt students about the Vietnam war, and why he helped organize the armband protest in 1965. “There supposed to be an election in 1954, but the US was afraid of the results, and went to war.”

 

Poets Chloe and Christian share their power and truth in "Rise Up!"

Movement 515 poets Chloe and Christian share their power and truth by performing their poem, “Rise Up!”  “I refuse to stand by and watch bigotry kill off my sisters and brothers!”

 

"Tinker" attorney, Dan Johnston, with Roosevelt student, Sulaiman Muhammed

“Tinker” attorney, Dan Johnston, right,  on the panel, with Roosevelt senior and poet, Sulaiman Muhammed

Retired Iowa State Senator Darryl Beall did a great job of moderating the panel that included Tom Lane,  former Superintendent of Carlisle schools, who praised the “Tinker” ruling. Other panelists included Kathy Collins, esteemed education attorney and Roosevelt alum;  and Bruce Clark.

From left, John Tinker, Kathy Collins Reilly, Mary Beth, Bruce Clark & Tom Lane

 John Tinker, Kathy Collins Reilly, Mary Beth, Bruce Clark, Tom Lane

Thanks to the Roosevelt alumni association for helping to sponsor the anniversary program.   Other sponsors were the Iowa ACLU,  Des Moines Schools, and Student Press Law Center.

 

The next day,  on to Harding, where Mary Beth was suspended in 8th grade, on December 16, 1965. Here’s what happened THIS December 16th, 2015, when Principal Joy Linquist and the entire Harding community extended a warm welcome…

 

Greeted by the Harding student council

Greeted by Harding student council and  Cassandra Kendzora, Arts Integration Coordinator 

 

Student council member, Jocelyn, explains to WHO reporter that "an issue I'm standing up for is higher pay for workers so my mom doesn't have to work 2 jobs, and I can see her more."

Jocelyn explains to WHO reporter that “an issue I’m standing up for is higher pay for workers so my mom doesn’t have to work 2 jobs, and I can see her more.”  (Too bad that didn’t make it into the newscast.)

 

Harding students tweet!

Harding students tweet!

 

Harding students

…and Harding students rally with souvenir armbands….

 

The next day, Thursday, December 17th-  exactly 50 years ago since John Tinker was suspended from North High School- we spent with 2 amazing student groups:  Urban Leadership students at Central Campus, and then at North HS with student journalists from North and other area schools. Here’s to the free press!

 

Recent edition, North HS student newspaper. Inside, articles on LGBT community, the role of police in classrooms, and more

Recent edition, North HS newspaper. Inside, articles on LGBT community, the role of police in classrooms, and more

 

In Urban Leadership,  students express feelings about the world they live in.

20151218_09015620151218_08464120151218_095045

Jevion, Nick and Neshef: with "Please don't be scared of me" compare lynching to violence against black youth by police

Jevion, Nick and Neshef:  “Please don’t be scared of me” presentation compares lynching to violence against black youth today 

 

John Tinker: "It's hard to suppress a symbol because the idea behind it can just be replaced by another symbol"

John Tinker: “It’s hard to suppress a symbol because the idea behind it can just be replaced by another symbol”

Last,  on to Lincoln HS, where we honored student Perry Hutchison for wearing a black armband in December, 1965. He wasn’t suspended, so didn’t become a plaintif in the “Tinker” case.

 

Lincoln HS displays a flag for every country where one of their students is from

Lincoln HS displays a flag for each country where one of their students was born.  Here’s to the future, one big world where students live in peace!

20151217_104242

In the meantime, goodbye, Des Moines, and thanks for the love!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s