Two landmark cases involving Students' Rights are Tinker V. Des Moines and the Goss V. Lopez case. These two court cases set the foundation for our laws and policies regarding students and administrators. In short, " Student Rights Do Not End At The SchoolHouse Gate" (16, La Morte).

In the Tinker V. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), fifteen year old John F. Tinker and his thirteen year old sister were suspended from school for wearing black arm bands in protest of the Vietnam war. These arm bands were to be worn from December 16 to the end of the Holiday season. Prior to the start of the protest, principals learned of the protest and adopted a policy stipulating that any student wearing an arm band to school would have to remove it or face suspension.

After the Tinkers and other students were suspended for not complying with the policy the Tinker parents filed suit in federal court, charging that the rule and disciplinary action taken against the young people violated their First Amendment right to Freedom of speech and expression. Four years later, in a decision that for the first time enunciated court doctrine on students' First Amendment right to free speech, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed. The court finally acknowledged that students do not shed their constitutional rights of freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate (88, La Morte).

According to the Tinker Doctrine "undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression and school authorities must accept " mere disturbances" when students exercise their First Amendment rights ( 77, La Morte).

In the Goss V. Lopez case, Students right to due process was established. Dwight Lopez was a student at Columbus Central High School and in February of 1971 a number of students were involved in a disturbance in the lunchroom that resulted in property damage. Lopez denied that he was a participant in the disturbance but was suspended, before he could give his side of the story, for a ten day period.

Lopez and eight other students who received suspension filed suit in the Federal District Court claiming violation of their Fourteen Amendment Rights to due process of law. The Court handed down its decision January of 1975 that students facing suspension " must be given some kind of notice and afforded some kind of hearing" before being deprived of their education (47, Reutter).

These two land mark cases are referred to most often when cases involving students rights are concerned. Though some see the Tinker Doctrine as weak because it is written in very general language, this case is what gives our foundation for students' rights (144, Haubrich...).


Haubrich,Vernon F., Apple, Michael W. Schooling and the Rights of Children. Wisconsin: McCutchan,1975.

La Morte, Michael W. School Law. Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon, 1990. Reutter, Edmund E. JR. The Supreme Courts' Impact on Public Education. Reutter: 1982.

Prepared By Pam Mason-King