Renowned Students' Rights Advocate Mary Beth Tinker Speaks to Portland Schools, Law School, MCLU

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
May 6, 2010 12:00 am

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Tinker of the Landmark Supreme Court Case Tinker v. Des Moines Visits Maine


Portland — Mary Beth Tinker of the landmark case Tinker v. Des Moines visits Maine schools today including King Middle School and Deering High School in Portland. This evening she will speak at the annual dinner for the Maine Civil Liberties Union Foundation, the Justice Louis Scolnik Award Dinner honoring Nan Heald. Tomorrow, Friday, May 7, she will address the University of Maine School of Law in a public talk at 12:15 pm.

Mary Beth Tinker was a 13-year-old junior high school student in 1965 when she and a group of students were suspended for wearing black armbands to school to mourn the dead in Vietnam. Assisted by the ACLU, their families embarked on a four-year court battle that culminated in the landmark Supreme Court decision Tinker v. Des Moines in1969, in which the Court ruled 7-2 that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

“Mary Beth Tinker’s advocacy, as a young person and throughout her life, has paved the way for everything that we do to protect students’ free speech rights,” said MCLU Executive Director Shenna Bellows. “Her courage to speak out about her beliefs created Supreme Court precedent that guides legal advocacy for students today.”

Tinker continues to educate young people about their rights, speaking frequently to student groups across the country. She is also active in directing the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project at American University, which mobilizes law students to teach courses on constitutional law and juvenile justice at public schools.

Tinker is a registered nurse, an active leader in her union, and holds masters degrees in public health and nursing. In 2006, as a tribute to Tinker’s devotion to the rights of young people, the ACLU National Board of Directors’ Youth Affairs Committee renamed its annual youth affairs award, the “Mary Beth Tinker Youth Involvement Award.”

Interviews on Thursday and Friday may be arranged with Ms. Tinker upon request. Her speeches to Deering High School at 12:15 pm and to the MCLU at 6 pm at the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport today, Thursday, May 6, are open to the press. Her speech to the University of Maine School of Law tomorrow, Friday, May 7 at 12:15 pm is also open to the press and to the public. Please contact Shenna Bellows at 776-5404 for more information.

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