Journalism students meet Supreme Court icon Mary Beth Tinker

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AHS journalism students had the opportunity to meet a piece of American history on Feb. 21 when they attended “A Conversation with Mary Beth Tinker.” The event was held in The Washington Post Community room on Feb. 21, along with several other high schools in the area. Students got the opportunity to meet Mary Beth Tinker, an important figure to the freedom of speech. The event was held with the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), which presented valuable information about how First Amendment rights still apply to high school students.

“I never really thought that teenagers could make such a huge impact,” senior Carina Chu said. “Mary Beth Tinker is probably one of the most important teenagers in U.S history. Also, as a journalism student, the Tinker vs. Des Moines is monumental as far as my First Amendment rights in school.”

The sentiment was echoed throughout the meeting, as well as how the Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier decision limited the right to freedom of speech with school newspapers.

“Mary Beth Tinker’s experiences affect you as student reporters, and the first amendment,” SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte said.

Both the SPLC and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) were present at the event for their strong advocacy of the First Amendment freedoms, and work in close conjunction with Tinker and her aims to promote freedom of speech in high schools.

The event began with representatives from several high school newspapers briefly speaking about their experiences in high school journalism. A student representative from Wilson HS, Christina, in Washington D.C spoke about a situation where the paper needed assistance from the SPLC to publish their paper.

“What Christina is saying is that we are building student freedom and student journalism too,” Tinker said. “And that’s why we’re here today, and that’s what we’re all about here.”

Tinker began her story by asking students to name the freedoms enumerated in the First Amendment, then providing supplementary statistics that displayed the public’s general ignorance when it came to the first amendment freedoms, rights that are very important to Tinker.

“I grew up and I became a nurse, and I started seeing that young people need to have their rights, and they need to stand up for their rights,” Tinker said. “So I thought, if there’s something I can do to speak up and help you guys encourage yourselves, then that’s what I want to do.”