Students exercise freedom of speech


More than 50 Central Academy students staged a protest and die-in this morning in the school’s commons area.

They carried signs that read “I Can’t Breathe” and “#BlackLivesMatter” as they marched from the back of the school up the main hallway to the front doors where they laid down on their backs.

Their chants about Michael Brown and Eric Garner echoed those of protesters across the country before they stayed on the ground for four-and-a-half minutes, reflective of the four-and-a-half hours Brown’s body lay in a Ferguson, Missouri street while police investigated the officer-involved shooting.

In 1969, in the Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District decision, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that First Amendment rights apply to students and public schools may not prohibit student speech unless it disrupts education. Forty-five years later, in the school district that was ‘ground zero’ in this landmark court case, students exercise their constitutional rights.

Senior Cole Rehbein, who organized the event, said the students should realize the impact such events have on them, even in Des Moines.

“Even though we’re insulated here,” he said, “and we’re not seeing black people being shot in the street, we need to be more analytical of the relationship between police and students, and see if we can improve that relationship.”

Des Moines Public Schools are home to a majority-minority student population, meaning more students of color attend DMPS than their white counterparts. Today, the DMPS student body represents not only the country, but is reflective of the world, with 100 languages and dialects being spoken by students at any given time.

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