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Assistant Dean Craig Markson, Mary Beth Tinker, John Tinker, Kathy Kuhlmeier Frey and EDL faculty member David Scott.

Assistant Dean Craig Markson, Mary Beth Tinker, John Tinker, Kathy Kuhlmeier Frey and EDL faculty member David Scott.

History Comes to Life in School Law Classroom

On October 8, 2014, students in the Seaford cohort of the Educational Leadership Program met the key players in two landmark Supreme Court cases that they were studying. Their instructor, David Scott, JD, invited Mary Beth and John Tinker and Kathy Khulmeier Frey to share their experiences with the class.

Siblings Mary Beth and John Tinker were the lead plaintiffs in Tinker v. Des Moines. Decided in 1969, this landmark case affirmed the constitutional rights of students to engage in free speech and expression as protected by the First Amendment.  The Tinkers, as students in the Des Moines Schools, were suspended for engaging in a silent, peaceful protest which involved wearing black armbands to school as a symbol of sadness over the war in Vietnam. Unable to successfully reach a compromise with the school district, the Tinkers fought their cause all the way to the United States Supreme Court.  The decision in their case is considered to be the foundation of students’ free speech rights in public school settings.  The “Tinker Standard” continues to be upheld by courts and is the basis of all decisions made by school leaders in evaluating students’ rights to engage in expressive conduct in a public school setting.  Tinker

The School Law students also met Kathy Kuhlmeier Frey.  As a high school student she served as the student editor of her high school newspaper at Hazelwood East High School in Missouri.  A dispute emerged between the students and the principal as to the propriety of stories related to teen pregnancy and divorce.  The principal, exercising control of the school newspaper, pulled the stories and would not let them go to print.  Strongly believing in the right to a free press and the journalistic principle of “no prior restraint” Kuhlmeier took a stand against this act of censorship.  With the help of the ACLU, Kathy Kuhlmeier served as lead plaintiff in a case that was decided by the Supreme Court in 1988, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier.  Despite Kuhlmeier’s case having been lost at the Supreme Court, the case continues to be very controversial. Many journalism and student advocacy groups continue to advocate for the rights of student journalists despite this dis-favorable ruling at the Supreme Court.  The Student Press Law Center runs a program called “Cure Hazelwood” which seeks to advance laws and policies that protect the rights of student journalists.  So far six states have passed “anti-Hazelwood laws” that provide additional rights to students beyond what the Supreme Court found in the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier decision.  See  http://www.splc.org/section/cure-hazelwood for more information.

EDL Faculty Member David Scott with CEQ 528 class and guests

EDL Faculty Member David Scott with CEQ 528 class and guests

The CEQ 528 students enjoyed hearing the personal accounts of these highly regarded First Amendment icons and were able to relate their stories to challenges currently found in our schools.  The presentation was arranged by Professor David Scott who teaches School Law in the Educational Leadership Program. This was a memorable experience for all involved.

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