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How Disruptive Is "Disruptive?"

Directions

In the case of Tinker v. Des Moines, the Supreme Court of the United States decided that student political speech could not be restricted or punished unless school authorities could prove that the action "would materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school" or impinge upon the rights of other students.

Describe two politically motivated activities students might participate in that could "interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school."

a.

b.

Describe two politically motivated activities students might participate in that could impinge upon the rights of other students.

a.

b.

Continuum

You are now going to participate in an activity that may cause you to re-evaluate your opinion of exactly what disruptive means. Read the scenario below and decide if, according to Tinker's standards, the school principal acted appropriately.

Scenario

A week after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Muhammed, an eleventh-grade student in Detroit, Michigan, was upset about the way Muslim Americans were being treated. Muhammed witnessed a shopkeeper in his neighborhood verbally attack an Arab newspaper deliveryman who was being harassed by a group of young men. Deciding he must take a stand, Muhammed decided to go to school carrying a backpack covered with bumper stickers. The stickers read, "Terrorism sucks . . . so why do Americans do it?" While many students did not even seem to notice the stickers, one girl whose uncle was in the military became visibly upset. She asked her teacher if she could leave class and went to the counselor's office in tears. Her counselor called the principal, who in turn asked Muhammed to come to his office. Once in the principal's office, Muhammed was told he must remove his stickers or leave his backpack at home. When he refused, the principal warned Muhammed that his refusal to comply would lead to a two-week suspension. "For the constitution," Muhammed replied, "I'll take that chance."

  • Should the principal have suspended Muhammed for causing a substantial disruption? Defend your position below.
  • Mark an "X" on the continuum below to show exactly how disruptive you think Muhammed's actions were.

You may have noticed that there are two signs at the front of the classroom. One sign reads "Most Disruptive" and the other reads "Least Disruptive." Position yourself on the area on the continuum that matches your opinion. Your teacher may ask you to think about the question posed earlier in this lesson, "How disruptive is 'disruptive?'" For each question your teacher asks you, adjust your position on the continuum accordingly. Be prepared to explain why you have or have not moved.


Continuum Questions for Teachers:

What if . . .

  1. The school Muhammed attends is in New York City?
  2. The school Muhammed attends is in Boulder, Colorado?
  3. The school Muhammed attends is near a military base?
  4. Muhammed's bumper stickers also show U.S. soldiers?
  5. Muhammed's bumper stickers also show a burning American flag?
  6. Several students are upset by the stickers?
  7. No students complain about the stickers?
  8. A parent calls the school to complain about the stickers, but no students complain?
  9. Muhammed convinces 10 other students to display the same stickers?
  10. Muhammed convinces 50 others?
  11. Muhammed convinces 100 others?
  12. Muhammed's protest took place the day after the attacks?
  13. Muhammed's protest took place a week after the attacks?
  14. Muhammed's protest took place a month after the attacks?
  15. Muhammed's protest took place a year after the attacks?
  16. Muhammed begins displaying posters around school with the same slogan?
  17. Other students begin wearing buttons that say "Arabs suck . . . "
  18. At the end of his two-week suspension, Muhammed comes back wearing the same slogan on a T-shirt, rather than displaying bumper stickers?
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