Iowa Schools, Free Speech and Peace

As so often happens, I had no idea I would be writing about this today. I was looking for information about the Shattering Silence sculpture in Des Moines, where today’s Poor People’s Campaign will take place, when I saw this video. The case of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District was eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The issue was whether students’ free speech was violated when the students were expelled for wearing arm bands with peace symbols to protest the Vietnam War. The court decided in favor of the students, 7-2.

“You could even say the Tinker decision paved the way for the National School Walkout that took place in schools all across the country.”  (from the video above)

Tinker vs Des Moines and recent school walkout

Also during this time (1970) a group of concerned persons brought a proposal to the Des Moines School Board that draft counseling should be provided by all the Des Moines High Schools. Lynne Howard, a Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting Quaker, tells this story, which is available on the Quaker Story Project blog: The Peace Testimony Remains.   “My peace activism started at Know and, because “all things peace” in Des Moines leads to AFSC and the Friends, I became involved with a group of like-minded students led by FSC staff.  We formed the Des Moines Area Youth Coalition and one of our main goals was to see draft counseling available in all of the Des Moines Public High Schools.  Young Des Moines men were walking down the aisles to receive their diplomas, and then, within months, stepping out of helicopters into the lush green hell that was Viet Nam in the 1960-70’s.  They deserved, at the minimum, some place to hear and discuss options.  We took our proposal to the Des Moines School Board in September of 1970, and to our surprise, it passed!  As a matter of interest, I have attached the proposal.”

I was a student at Scattergood Friends School at that time. There were several things we did, including  events during several of the National Moratorium Days to End the Vietnam War. October 15, 1969, the entire school body walked in silence from the School into Iowa City.

From the school committee minutes (Oct. 11, 1969):
A group of students attended Committee meeting and explained plans for their participation in the October 15 Moratorium. The Committee wholeheartedly endorses the plans. The following statement will be handed out in answer to any inquiries:

“These students and faculty of Scattergood School are undertaking the twelve mile walk from campus to Iowa City in observance of the October 15 Moratorium. In order not to detract from the purpose of the walk, we have decided to remain silent. You are welcome to join us in this expression of our sorrow and disapproval of the war and loss of life in Vietnam. Please follow the example of the group and accept any heckling or provocation in silence.”

In recent years there were similar Peace Walks.

Peace Scattergood then now

FCNL: Scattergood Peace Marches

During the November Moratorium Day, we held a draft conference at the School.


Draft conference, Scattergood 1969

In April, 1970, Bob Berquist suggested we visit people in the nearby town of West Branch to see how they felt about the Vietnam War. Although we were apprehensive about what would happen, we found everyone we talked to unhappy about the war, and wanting it to end.

This entry was posted in civil disobedience, peace, Quaker Meetings, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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