A free speech activist visited Palo Alto High School Tuesday as student journalists got a sneak preview of the school's new Media Arts Building.
Mary Beth Tinker, whose 1969 case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent School District, established First Amendment rights for students on campus, spoke to Paly students about the importance of speaking out and exercising their rights.
"The Tinker decision has been core to the success of Palo Alto High School media programs, and it will continue to be of bedrock importance as we move into our new home at Paly," said longtime journalism teacher Esther Wojcicki, as she and fellow journalism teacher Paul Kandell led student journalists on a tour of the still-empty Media Arts Building.
Mary Beth Tinker was a 13-year-old junior high school student in 1965 when she, her older brother and another student wore black armbands to school in protest of the Vietnam War, prompting school officials to enact a no-armband policy.
A federal district court ruled against the students but the case eventually made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 1969 that schools cannot silence student expression just because they dislike it.
Forty-five years later, Tinker, a nurse who lives in Washington D.C., travels around the country to promote youth activism and free speech.
Wojcicki also announced Tuesday that the family foundation of her daughter, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki, and son-in-law, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, will help pay for "auxiliary furniture and equipment" for the new building.
The $85,000 Brin-Wojcicki Foundation gift comes atop the $100,000 already raised by Paly's Media Arts Boosters group, led by parents Carol Chalmers and Debbie Crouch.
The funds will be used to provide upgrades for the new building's six classrooms, courtyard, computer lab, kitchen, atrium, journalism library and broadcast bay, Esther Wojcicki said.
The 23,000-square-foot Media Arts Building will house 550 media arts students and 250 English students. The combined planning and construction expenditures for that building together with a nearby two-story, 27-classroom math and social studies building was $34 million.
Occupancy of both buildings, originally set for last summer, has been delayed by litigation with Taisei Construction Corp. over $1.65 million in disputed costs. Wojcicki said she hopes to occupy her classroom in the new building by mid-April.