AMES, Iowa – An Iowa pioneer for youth rights and free speech shared a message of positive change with the Iowa 4-H Teen Influencers for Equity and Inclusion. On Sunday, Feb. 13, the teens met virtually with Mary Beth Tinker of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969).
As a high school junior, Tinker joined with other students planning to wear black armbands to school to protest the war in Vietnam. The school board passed a preemptive ban, and when the students arrived at school wearing the armbands they were suspended. A lawsuit was filed against the district, resulting in a 7-2 Supreme Court decision that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” The court found that the First Amendment applied to public schools and that school staff could not censor student speech unless it provided a disruption to the learning process. This case is often cited yet today in cases of youth rights and free speech.
During the call Tinker said, “History is normally made through small actions done by regular people.” She described her journey that led to the landmark case, how it has impacted her and youth rights since, as well as the importance of the First Amendment right to free speech in general.
“Following the call, the participating youth talked about always thinking that they need to do something big to make a difference, but hearing Mary Beth’s presentation showed them that it just takes a small action to create positive change,” said Anindita Das, diversity and inclusion professional development specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development.
Sivani Manimaran, Story County 4-H'er and member of the 4-H Teen Influencers for Equity and Inclusion, said, “It was great to hear the insider stories that happened behind the important historical court cases.”
The Iowa 4-H Teen Influencers for Equity and Inclusion bring together seventh through 11th grade youth and adult mentors from across the state to promote mutual understanding, increase leadership skills, and prepare youth to make a difference in their communities.
“They have been looking through the Community Capital Framework Model. This model is a lens through which we see the assets of a community and, conversely, the deficits that may keep it from being healthy. It includes the close, or bonded, connections among people and organizations, and the bridges a community builds to strengthen weaker ties,” said Nichol Kleespies, 4-H field supervisor and Teen Influencers for Equity and Inclusion leader.
“Through the Teen influencer program, we are partnering with youth on equity and inclusion on important aspects of our community and their roles as leaders. However, having speakers like Mary Beth Tinker clearly provides them a visual depiction to the journey, and gives them a perspective of the journey as change agents. The actions youth take sometimes may seem small at the moment and the end point may not be visible. The journey is like running a marathon and definitely builds over time and makes them stronger as individuals,” Das said.
To learn more about the Iowa 4-H Teen Influencers for Equity and Inclusion, contact Das at email@example.com.
Shareable photo and caption: The Iowa 4-H Teen Influencers for Equity and Inclusion met virtually with Mary Beth Tinker of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969).