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Free Speech Icon Makes Stop in Kent on Nationwide Tour

Posted Sep. 25, 2013

Tinker Tour '13Mary Beth Tinker, who was at the center of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on student rights, will visit Kent State University as part of a nationwide civics education tour to American high schools and colleges on Tuesday, Oct. 1to share her personal story and the significance of the Court's decision with its declaration in 1969 that neither teachers or students "shed their Constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."

Tinker was the lead plaintiff in the landmark 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. The case arose after she and two other students in Des Moines, Iowa, were suspended for wearing black armbands to school to mourn those who had died in the Vietnam War. The court upheld students' First Amendment right to express themselves non-disruptively in public schools. To this day, the case sets the legal standard for students' free-speech rights.

Today, the Tinker ruling continues to protect students' rights and has been cited by judges in almost 6,000 student cases.  It is included in most American civics and history textbooks.

She is traveling the country in a colorful 29-foot RV that is sure to attract the attention to motorists and students alike. In all, the Tinker Tour will visit 19 states and the District of Columbia, including Tinker's own junior high school in Des Moines, where it all began. The goal of the Tinker Tour is to bring real-life civics lessons to schools and communities through Tinker's story and those of other young people.

Tinker will speak to students, faculty, staff and community members at 9 a.m. Oct. 1 in the Kent Student Center Ballroom as part of the Ohio Scholastic Media Association (OSMA) Regional Workshop. The hour-long session is free and open to the public.

"Tinker spoke at our OSMA state convention last year, and her message really inspired those who heard her," said OSMA Director Candace Perkins Bowen, who is also an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and director of the Center for Scholastic Journalism (CSJ) at Kent State.

Accompanying Tinker on the tour is Mike Hiestand, who has written and lectured extensively on legal issues affecting the student media and worked for more than 20 years as an attorney for the Student Press Law Center.

"Mary Beth Tinker is one of the most important activists in the nation for the civil rights of young people," said Mark Goodman, Kent State professor and Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism.  "It's a great honor for Kent State to be able to host her and Mike Hiestand as they travel the nation this fall."

The Student Press Law Center, www.splc.org, is the presenting sponsor of the tour. The SPLC is a nonprofit organization with nearly 40 years of experience supporting youth voices and is assisting the tour with organizational and promotional assistance. The SPLC is an advocate for, and provides programming in the areas of, student First Amendment rights, for transparency in government, for youth civic engagement, and for online civility.

The Tour has the endorsement of dozens of education and civil-liberties organizations, including the NAACP, the Journalism Education Association, the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, the American Constitution Society, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Constitution Center and many more. Both OSMA and CSJ at Kent State helped to fund the Tinker Tour.

For more information on the Tinker Tour, visit http://tinkertourusa.org. The tour can also be followed on Twitter, using #tinkertour and on Facebook.

For more information about the Tinker Tour stop at Kent State, contact Bowen at 330-672-8297 or Goodman at 330-672-6239.

In its 76th year, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University is a leading accredited journalism school with cutting-edge curriculum and facilities. The school's mission is focused on understanding the media marketplace and media-related careers while providing professional undergraduate and master's programs within the liberal arts tradition. JMC teaches its students to gather information, to present it clearly and to think critically within a legal and ethical framework. It serves as a resource for professional practitioners, for media consumers and for Kent State University. For more information, visit www.kent.edu/jmc.

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Media Contact: Jennifer Kramer, APR, jlkramer@kent.edu, 330-672-1960