Goss v. Lopez

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Goss v. Lopez
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued October 16, 1974
Decided January 22, 1975
Full case name Goss, et al. v. Lopez, et al.
Docket nos. 73-898
Citations 419 U.S. 565 (more)
Prior history Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio
The students' suspension from a public school without a hearing violated the due process right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority White, joined by Douglas, Stewart, Brennan, Marshall
Dissent Powell, joined by Burger, Blackmun, Rehnquist
Laws applied
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565 (1975) was a United States Supreme Court case that held that a public school must conduct a hearing before subjecting a student to suspension. The Court held that a suspension without a hearing violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.


Nine students, including a student named Dwight Lopez, were suspended from Central High School (Columbus, Ohio) for 10 days for destroying school property and disrupting the learning environment.

Ohio Law § 3313.66 empowered the school principal to suspend a student for a period of 10 days or expel them. The law required that the student's parents be notified of the action within 24 hours and be given the reason. If the student were expelled the student could appeal to the Board of Education. However §3313.66 gave no such allowances if the student were suspended. A three-judge District Court struck down the law, saying that it violated the students' right to due process of law. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio held that:

The District Court reprimanded the school for its violation of the 14th Amendment, stating that there were "minimum requirements of notice and a hearing prior to suspension, except in emergency situations." The case was appealed by the school to the Supreme Court.

Opinion of the Court[edit]

Justice Byron R. White delivered the opinion of the Court, on behalf of a narrow 5-4 majority. The Court held that the state had violated due process by suspending the students without a hearing. The State had made education a fundamental right by providing for free public education for all residents between 5 and 21 years old. The Court stated that protected interests are not created by the Constitution but by its institutions (Board of Regents v. Roth). The Court held that a 10-day suspension was not a de minimis deprivation of property. The Court also stated that suspending a student had the potential to seriously harm their reputation and affect their future employment and education. It held that the state had no authority to deprive students of their property interest in educational benefits or their liberty interest in reputation without due process of law.

The Court reiterated the principle, first clearly formulated in Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist. but established in a long line of decisions before that case, that students "do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door".


Justice Powell wrote the dissent. He argued that the Ohio statute had granted the right to education, but not the right to education without discipline. He challenged the court's finding that the suspension was severe enough to bring the Due Process clause into play.

Powell also argued that the safeguards provided by the Ohio statute were sufficient. The statute required that the student's parents and the Board of Education be given written notice of the suspension and "reasons therefor" within 24 hours. Powell also argued that the informal hearing proposed by the majority would not provide significantly more protection.

Powell criticized at length the court's interference with the operation of schools. He argued that minors should be and are treated differently under the law and that the court was turning its back on precedent. Powell concluded that the majority's decision would allow students to claim due process violations when excluded from extracurricular activities, failed from a course, promoted, required to take certain subjects, transferred from one school to another, or bused to a far-off school.


Further reading[edit]

  • Ellis, Michael A. (1976). "Procedural Due Process after Goss v. Lopez". Duke Law Journal (Duke Law Journal, Vol. 1976, No. 2) 1976 (2): 409–430. doi:10.2307/1371983. JSTOR 1371983. 

External links[edit]