Tinker Tour makes stop at Kent State


Mary Beth Tinker and Mike Hiestand are part of a tour of America’s schools and colleges to talk about free speech and civics education during a nationwide Tinker Tour. Photo courtesy of the Tinker Tour.

Alexandra Taylor

Kent State faculty, students and numerous high school journalists from surrounding areas, watched as freedom of the First Amendment advocate, Mary Beth Tinker, spoke in The Student Center Ballroom on Tuesday morning.

As part of the Ohio Scholastic Media Association fall workshop, Tinker came to talk to attendees about her work in making the First Amendment real for public school students and teachers.

This is one stop of the Tinker Tour, which Tinker will visit 19 different states and speak to young and old people about how change is possible and how to reserve the First Amendment rights.

“Today, 44 years after the supreme court ruling, Mary Beth continues to educate young people about their rights; speaking to groups of students across the country,” said Mark Goodman, Journalism and Mass Communication professor and Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism.

In 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, Tinker and the American Civil Liberties Union fought for the right to keep the First Amendment in the public school system. Tinker, her siblings and many friends were suspended from school in 1965 for wearing black armbands in protest to the Vietnam War and in remembrance of the causalities. The court’s historic ruling in the case gave students and teachers freedom of speech in public schools, as long as academics weren’t disrupted.

“I wanted to express myself,” Tinker said. “Kids have rights too.”

Joined by Tinker on the Tinker Tour is Mike Hiestand, a Student Press Law Center attorney. Hiestand grew up in the Vietnam War era also and spoke about his account of his uncle and father being sent to war when he was at a young age.

“ [This] is where student press law and student speech law begins,” said Hiestand. “It was a very tough time in our country’s history and whenever you have something deep within… that’s meaningful to you that you want to talk about, how dare anyone tell you that you can’t.”

Later in the tour, Tinker and Hiestand will be speaking at Warren Harding Middle School where Tinker was suspended for the first time.

Contact Alexandra Taylor at [email protected].