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Published: June 28, 2011

Goss v. Lopez

A 1975 U.S. Supreme Court decision reaffirming a lower court affirmation of a public school student’s constitutional right, under the FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT, to due process in school disciplinary actions. The case involved nine Columbus, Ohio, students suspended in 1971 during demonstrations arising from racial disorders. State law permitted the school to suspend students summarily for up to 10 days without any discussion with them.
The lower court had held that suspended public school pupils had the right to notice of charges against them and an opportunity to defend themselves against such charges. Writing for the majority in the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision, Justice Byron R. White stated that “Young people do not shed their rights at the schoolhouse door.” The Court added that pupils had an “entitlement” to education in states that guaranteed their residents free primary and secondary education and that states “may not withdraw that right on grounds of misconduct, absent fundamentally fair procedures to determine whether the misconduct has occurred.” It held that suspension without a hearing deprived the students of their property (the statutory right to an education) and liberty (slurring their school records without proof). However, in ruling that the students were entitled to “rudimentary precautions against unfair findings of misconduct and arbitrary exclusions from schools,” the Court stopped short of giving students, who had been suspended for short periods, the right to counsel and formal hearings.
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