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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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!
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.
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!
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!
On to Moulton Elementary School, where Principal Eric Van Dorin welcomes the Tinkers…
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.
Paul sang the Cattell song, but it’s changed in 50 years. Still, everyone appreciated his spirit.
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….
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.
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.
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…
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!
In Urban Leadership, students express feelings about the world they live in.
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.
In the meantime, goodbye, Des Moines, and thanks for the love!