Mary Beth Tinker was an ordinary girl who wanted to make a difference.
At 13 years old, she had no idea that the simple act of wearing a black armband to school in protest of the Vietnam War would spark a national debate about students’ rights. But when she and a small group of students (her siblings John, Hope, and Paul, along with friends Chris Eckhardt, Ross Peterson, Bruce Clark, Chris Singer and Perry Hutchison) wore the armbands in 1965, the Supreme Court defended their rights with a landmark ruling that neither teachers nor students “shed their Constitutional rights…at the schoolhouse gate.” (Tinker v Des Moines, 1969).
Since then, the armband story has been shared in history books and cited in over 6,000 court cases involving students’ rights to free expression in public schools.
Mary Beth is now a retired registered nurse, and speaks with students, teachers, administrators and community groups throughout the country to share her story and the stories of young people everywhere. To kick off the Tinker Tour in the 2013-2014 school year, she was joined by First Amendment attorney Mike Hiestand, traveling to over 100 schools, colleges, universities, law schools, juvenile centers, and conferences to share the good news that the First Amendment is for young people too. Since then, Mary Beth has spoken with thousands of students about their rights.
For 2021-22, Mary Beth is speaking virtually about her favorite subject… the rights of youth!