Celebrate the 2019 Law Day theme with Mary Beth Tinker and MCCE. Every year, the American Bar Association (ABA) announces a Law Day Theme. ABA’s 2019 announced theme is Free Press, Free Speech, and Free Society. We are celebrating this year with an essay contest, speaking events with Mary Beth Tinker and a MCCE trivia night fundraiser hosted by Mary Beth herself.
Travel With Tinker
Join Mary Beth Tinker as she tours Michigan to visit students and champions of Free Speech and Free Press Law Day week. As the court case Tinker v Des Moines Independent School District (1969) turns 50, join us in analyzing the First Amendment today. Mary Beth will share the stage with students who champion this theme and who represent Free Speech and Free Press. Download the all event flyer here.
- April 29 – Detroit at River Rouge High School
- Register: http://bit.ly/LawDay2019atRR
- April 30 – Genessee County – Swartz Creek High School and Flint Community Schools
- Register: http://bit.ly/GeneseeLawDay2019
- April 30 – Meet and Greet at the State Bar of Michigan and Trivia Night in Lansing (register by April 23)
- May 1 – Grand Rapids at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. Register HERE by April 22.
- May 1 – WMU- Colley in Kalamazoo
Law Day Essay Contest
Students are invited to think, research, write, reflect and rewrite! Enter the 2019 Law Day Essay Contest by submitting a 500 word essay. An award will given to both a middle school and a high school student.
Topics to be considered include:
- In what ways might a free society depend on free speech and a free press?
- Identify, discuss, and evaluate challenges to and triumphs of free speech and free press.
- In what ways might you be a champion of a free society utilizing free speech and free press.
Now Due April 22, 2019. Submit essay via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover page: Please include student name, teacher and course name (if enrolled in a course), grade, school, principal name, school district, school address, student/parent/guardian email, student/parent/guardian phone, school contact email, school contact phone.
* Please keep you name only on the cover page and not on the essay pages.
**Turning in an essay permits the Michigan Center for Civic Education to post names, photos, and essays online.
Thank you to our sponsors.
- Young Lawyers Section, State Bar of Michigan,
- Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Foundation,
- WMU-Cooley Center for Civil Discourse
- Individual Donors, and
- This project is funded in part by Michigan Humanities, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Coming to a Law Day Event?
Consider these resources to prepare for your visit!
Please visit to learn more about Mary Beth Tinker. Excellent resources including lesson plans to prepare your students can be found here:
from Annenberg: https://www.annenbergclassroom.org/resource/freedom-speech-finding-limits/
this TedTalk featuring Mary Beth Tinker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxvSftU9Ze0
These plans from Landmark Supreme Court Cases: https://www.landmarkcases.org/cases/tinker-v-des-moines
Visit: https://tinkertourusa.org/teachers/resources/ for more!
About Tinker vs. Des Moines (1969):
“In December 1965, Mary Beth Tinker was part of a small group of students who made history by wearing simple black armbands to school. Her brother, John, and their friend Chris Eckhardt were among the others. At the time, history was the last thing on their minds. Mary Beth was a shy 13-year-old, John had just turned 15, and Chris was 16.
But they did make history, eventually winning a landmark Supreme Court ruling in favor of First Amendment rights for students.
The year was 1965, when about 1000 soldiers had been killed in Vietnam. Inspired by an antiwar rally in Washington, DC, the students wore the armbands to mourn the dead and to support Robert F. Kennedy’s call for a Christmas truce. A few hours after school started, Mary Beth was called out of algebra class and told to remove her armband by the vice principal. She did, but was suspended anyway. Within days, others were punished as well.
Four years later, following heated school board meetings, death threats to our families, legal help from the ACLU and two lower federal court cases, the United States Supreme Court heard the students’ case.
On February 24, 1969, in a 7-2 ruling, the students won.
The Tinker ruling, officially known as Tinker v. Independent Community School District No. 21, 393 U.S. 503 (1969), is still cited in nearly every student First Amendment case, and almost all American civics and history textbooks refer to it. The case fascinates students, who often use it for their History Day project. In 2012, Mary Beth was included in the book, 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed US History, along with such notable figures as Rosa Parks, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King.
There are a number of other good resources about students’ rights & the “Tinker” case. You will find some of them on our page, Other Resources We Like. But, here are a few as well:
- The Oyez Project where you can read the full opinion and listen to actual oral arguments in the case
- The American Civil Liberties Union
- The Student Press Law Center, which published a 40-year-retrospective look back at the impact of the case on student rights. The Center also also produced an interview with SPLC executive director Frank LoMonte and Mary Beth Tinker and Mike Hiestand in which they talk about the Tinker Tour. The interview includes Mary Beth’s story of what happened in December 1965 and the events that resulted in her landmark Supreme Court case.
- The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (yes, really) has a good summary of the case & story.
- And, of course, Wikipedia“
History of Law Day
Courtesy of our friends at the American Bar Association:
“Law Day, held annually on May 1, is a national day set aside to celebrate the rule of law. Law Day provides an opportunity to understand how law and the legal process protect our liberty, strive to achieve justice, and contribute to the freedoms that all Americans share…
President Dwight Eisenhower established the first Law Day in 1958 to mark the nation’s commitment to the rule of law. In 1961, Congress issued a joint resolution designating May 1 as the official date for celebrating Law Day, which is subsequently codified (U.S. Code, Title 36, Section 113). Every president since then has issued a Law Day proclamation on May 1 to celebrate the nation’s commitment to the rule of law.” (https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/law-day/)
Law Day Resources
- View elementary, middle, and high school lessons from the American Bar Association here.
- Learn more about Law Day from the American Bar Association.
- Additional resources from the Michigan State Bar Civic Education Resources.
- Diversity and Inclusion Resources for the Legal Profession from the Michigan State Bar.
Consider the ABA’s Leon Jaworski Program Questions.
This year marks the centennial of Abrams v. United States, in which the concept of the marketplace of ideas first entered American jurisprudence in Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ famous dissent. He argued that the “ultimate good desired is best reached by free trade in ideas” and “that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.”
- Are twenty-first century communication technologies so changing how we produce and consume information in the public sphere that they threaten to undermine the freedoms of speech and of the press that sustain deliberative democracy?
- What is the “marketplace of ideas”? What is its significance for the First Amendment?
- Does the “marketplace of ideas” still offer a powerful rationale for freedom of expression or is it outmoded in a networked era of ubiquitous and rapidly disseminated information, fake news, and weaponized political speech? If the latter, what might replace it?
- Does protecting a free society from disinformation present such a compelling interest today that we should reformulate the role that law can, and cannot, play? What might be done and by whom? Courts? Legislatures? Law enforcement? Regulators? Others?
- How can we best maintain our commitments to free speech and freedom of the press while confronting our information-society challenges?
*The comments and views of our guest speakers are entirely their own.