General Question

skwerl88's avatar

What is the Tinker Test and when does it apply?

Asked by skwerl88 (527 points ) April 25th, 2008

Currently, I have a bill-writing project assigned for my government class. I’ve already written and presented my bill, but two of my classmates still to present have been censored by my principal. Their topics were “Legalized Marijuana” and ironically, “Censorship in Schools.”

The principal justified his decision by stating that the marijuana bill advocated for drug use, and the censorship bill could potentially make a sexually abused student uncomfortable (he defines pornography within the bill). I’ve heard of the tinker test—does it apply to this, and if so, what could the consequences be?

My apologies for the long explanation.

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7 Answers

Breefield's avatar

Thinker test. Just so everyone understands it was an unintentional typo.

skwerl88's avatar

No, the tinker test. it’s used in law, referring to a court case in the ‘60s I believe.

Breefield's avatar

Well, then you miss-spelt it in your description, no worries. I was just confused.

amaryllis's avatar

It refers to the student rights case Tinker v. Des Moines in which Mary Beth Tinker challenged the school’s right to keep her from wearing a black armband in protest of the Vietnam war.

From a quick Google search: Although the Tinker decision recognized that students have free speech rights on campus, the court also held that your free-speech rights can be limited when the speech “materially disrupts classwork or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others.” This rule is referred to as Tinker’s “material disruption” standard, or the Tinker test. For example, a school can “prohibit the use of vulgar and offensive terms in public discourse” while you are on campus Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986) (upholding suspension of a high-school student Matthew Fraser for a student government nomination speech “including the use of obscene, profane language or gestures.”).

skwerl88's avatar

So, when the speech (or presentation may it be) does not in any way disrupt the classwork and doesn’t invade others rights by offending them, it’s legal?

Zaku's avatar

Technically, you can legally say anything an adult can – the question is what rules the school is allowed to set while you’re a pupil of theirs.

It seems like such a class could be missing something if it doesn’t cover this issue for the whole class. After all, bill-writing is about changing the law of the land, not working within it. Though the points about censorship bills can probably be covered without upsetting people by going into graphic details – that does upset people, particularly some parents. That of course is the point of rules on the subject. Anyway, your friends get extra credit from me for doing something interesting and relevant with the project.

jowell01's avatar

When would an administrator use the “tinker test”?

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