National accolades accompany Tinker Tour 2014 to a triumphant finish line

Mary Beth Tinker and Mike Hiestand’s magical journey across America is winning national recognition for igniting a much-needed dialogue about the importance of protecting students against censorship.

Launched on Constitution Day 2013, the Tinker Tour is a nationwide First Amendment awareness campaign bringing the landmark student-speech case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, to a new generation of learners.

The board of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, the charitable arm of the Society of Professional Journalists, voted this week to become a $6,000 “Presenting Sponsor” of the Tour, helping defray the expenses of a yearlong adventure that has reached 31 states, the District of Columbia and — in a detour that required leaving the RV behind — Brazil.

And on May 20, the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation will present its annual First Amendment Award to Mary Beth, one of the original Tinker plaintiffs, and to Mike, a longtime SPLC attorney who serves as the Tour’s “first mate” and navigator. The Tinker Tour is sharing the 2014 distinction with a noteworthy lineup of co-winners that includes Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald and anti-censorship advocate Chris Finan of the American Booksellers for Free Expression.

We are overjoyed by the recognition that Mike and Mary Beth are receiving from Sigma Delta Chi and the Hefner Foundation — not just for their creativity and fortitude in making the Tinker Tour a reality, but for the lifetime of student-rights advocacy that preceded it.

The Tinker Tour crosses the “finish” line in Seattle this week, but the job of revitalizing the First Amendment in schools is of course never finished. A team at the University of Oregon is at work on a documentary film, “Stand Up For Your Rights,” that will include highlights from the Tour’s most memorable stops, one more way of making sure that the conversation continues and momentum toward reform never falters.

What’s the Tinker Tour? Here’s a slideshow with a slice of life from the freedom trail.