Mary Beth Tinker Award
Each spring, the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project of American University Washington College of Law hosts an end-of-year celebration for the high school students who study constitutional law in Marshall-Brennan classes during the past academic year. As part of the celebration, the program presents an annual Mary Beth Tinker Award, named for the central figure in the 1969 Supreme Court ruling, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, the high watermark for court recognition of student rights.
The award is presented "for unswerving devotion to the rule of law and the rights of America=s students." A list of the winners, and a brief summary of why they were honored follows:
for unswerving devotion to the rule of law
and the rights of America's students
2010 Ina Bendich, Law and Government Academy Director, Excel High School in Oakland, CA
Excel High School in Oakland, California is located in a fully urban district. The students struggle to cope with the realities of their surroundings and teachers like Ina Bendich strive to focus the students' attention on improving their environment rather than falling prey to it. The Mary Beth Tinker Award for 2010 was given to Ina Bendich for her encouragement of her students’ pursuit of a safe and clean neighborhood. Ms. Bendich was a tremendous supporter of the launch of Marshall-Brennan chapters at UC Berkeley and UC Hastings. Her devotion to the program and to engaging her students in the community is evidence of her commitment to youth.
2009 Adam Wolf & American Civil Liberties Union Drug Law Reform Project
For more than a decade, the Drug Law Reform Project of the American Civil Liberties Union has battled against punitive drug policies that lead to widespread violation of constitutional rights and human rights. Through litigation, education and community support, these lawyers have tried to raise awareness that the war on drugs is often being fought at the expense of the rights of young people. Most recently, the Drug Law Reform Project argued in the U.S. Supreme Court for Savana Redding who was strip-searched as an eighth grader in Arizona by school officials looking for ibuprofen. Earlier, the Project represented Lindsay Earls in her challenge to a school drug-testing policy in Oklahoma.
2008 Sarah Boltuck, student, Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda, MD
As a student at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, you learned that you and thousands of other teenagers in Maryland had lost the right to vote at age 17 in primaries, if you would turn 18 by Election Day. Rather than accept this situation, you went into action, testifying before state officials and building popular support to bring about a change in the state rules. Your actions helped make it possible for thousands of Maryland teenagers to vote in the February 2008 primary and persuaded officials to restore the primary vote to 17-year-olds who will turn 18 by the general election.
2007 Amy Sorrell, high school teacher, East Allen County, IN
As teacher and adviser to The Tomahawk, the newspaper at Woodlan Junior-Senior High School in East Allen County, Indiana, you dedicated yourself to teaching your students sound journalism practices and good editorial judgment. You paid a high price for this dedication and sound judgment when you were suspended and ultimately transferred to another school, all for permitting publication of a student column advocating tolerance for gay students.
2006 Anthony Lemus, student, Freedom High School, Prince William County, VA
By your own admission, you were not involved in politics and did not pay attention to the news until you became aware of federal immigration crackdowns and proposed changes in immigration law that would hurt the educational and employment opportunities of undocumented aliens. Energized by the issue, you helped lead student protests and became a spokesperson at a rally in Washington dedicated to fighting for immigrant rights.
2005 Nashala Hearn, student, Benjamin Franklin Science Academy, Muskogee, OK
Leah Farish, attorney, Tulsa, OK for The Rutherford Institute
Relying on the religious freedom guaranteed by the free exercise clause of the First Amendment and equal treatment required by the Fourteenth amendment equal protection clause, you successfuly fought for Nashala's right to wear a hijab, a religious head scarf for which Nashala had been suspended by the Muskogee, Oklahoma school system.
Jeffrey Selman, parent & plaintiff, Cobb County, GA
Michael Manely, attorney, Marietta, GA
Citing the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the concept of separation of church and state, you fought successfully in federal court to have Cobb County, Georgia school officials remove from all biology textbooks stickers that described evolution as "a theory, not a fact" that "should be approached with an open mind."
2004 Judge Alfred T. Goodwin, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
As the author of the original opinion for the Ninth Circuit in Newdow v. U.S. Congress, and later Newdow v. Elk Grove Unified School District, Judge Goodwin you had the courage to apply the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment in a principled manner to the Pledge of Allegiance to protect the interests of school children and then to withstand the public outcry against the ruling. Your decision represents the strongest tradition of judicial independence.
2003 Mark Goodman, Student Press Law Center
The Student Press Law Center was founded in 1974 to represent the rights of student journalists. Mark Goodman has been its director since 1985 and a leading voice for the free speech and free press rights of students at all levels of our educational system. His determination and dedication to this important role have truly made a difference for students everywhere.
2002 Charles Cobb & Robert Moses, founders, The Algebra Project
The Algebra Project was founded in 1982 through the efforts of former civil rights organizers Charles Cobb and Robert Moses who equated the 1960's struggle for the right to vote with a 1980's struggle that continues to this day for a quality education for all youth in America. Their program helped empower youth for their own educational advancement and for the betterment of their communities.
2001 Mary Beth Tinker
Your displayed remarkable character and courage in standing up to school officials in order to carry out a peaceful protest against the Vietnam war and Cambodian bombing by wearing a black armband to school. That act and the landmark ruling it yielded in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District would be more than enough to merit the naming of this award in your honor. But you have also continued to speak out for the rights of students and against injustice throughout your life, and you have been a role model to the young people of this country that they can and should make a difference.