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Arts & Entertainment, Campus Events, General Information, Lectures & Seminars

Student Speech Activist to Visit LSU

10/17/2013 01:22 PM

BATON ROUGE – LSU will host Mary Beth Tinker, whose protest against the Vietnam War resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court case on students’ right to free speech, in the Holliday Forum of the Manship School of Mass Communication on Monday, Oct. 28, at 10 a.m. The event is open to all students and the public.

Tinker, who has been visiting schools and colleges throughout the eastern U.S. this fall, will be joined by Mike Hiestand, an attorney who specializes in student media law. Tinker and Hiestand will speak at the event and to various classes about student speech and the First Amendment. Both will be available for media interviews at 9:30 a.m., prior to the public event.

Tinker was one of several high school students who wore black armbands on Dec. 16, 1965, in protest against the United States’ continued involvement in the Vietnam War. Only a few days before, the school district had adopted a policy explicitly prohibiting the action. Tinker and the others were suspended from school until they returned to school without the armbands. They took their case to federal court, claiming that the school district’s decision to suspend them was a violation of their First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

Eventually, in a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the school district’s suspension of the students violated their First Amendment freedom of expression. The court determined that wearing the armbands in protest was pure speech and entirely disconnected from any disruptive conduct that may have resulted from the protest.

“First Amendment rights,” the Court said, “… are available to teachers and students.”

While the Supreme Court has pulled back from such a clearly defined standard in later cases, the Tinker decision still lives on as establishing a fundamental right for free speech on campus. As stated by the Supreme Court, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

The visit by Tinker and Hiestand is sponsored by the Manship School’s recently-initiated Press Law & Democracy Project, which focuses on the promotion, protection and study of the free press clause of the First Amendment in a 21st-Century context. The project pursues original research and provides outreach and resources to those who wish to better understand the brave new world of digital media through a legal understanding of the First Amendment guarantee to a “free press.” More information about the center is available at  

For more information about the event, contact Eric Robinson at 225-308-9770 or

LSU Media Relations