|Goss v. Lopez
[ White ]
[ Powell ]
Goss v. Lopez
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
Appellee Ohio public high school students, who had been suspended from school for misconduct for up to 10 days without a hearing, brought a class action against appellant school officials seeking a declaration that the Ohio statute permitting such suspensions was unconstitutional and an order enjoining the officials to remove the references to the suspensions from the students' records. A three-judge District Court declared that appellees were denied due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment because they were "suspended without hearing prior to suspension or within a reasonable time thereafter," and that the statute and implementing regulations were unconstitutional, and granted the requested injunction.
1. Students facing temporary suspension from a public school have property and liberty interests that qualify for protection under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 572-576.
(a) Having chosen to extend the right to an education to people of appellees' class generally, Ohio may not withdraw that right on grounds of misconduct absent fundamentally fair procedures to determine whether the misconduct has occurred, and must recognize a student's legitimate entitlement to a public education as a property interest that is protected by the Due Process Clause, and that may not be taken away for misconduct without observing minimum procedures required by that Clause. Pp. 573-574.
(b) Since misconduct charges, if sustained and recorded, could seriously damage the students' reputation, as well as interfere with later educational and employment opportunities, the State's claimed right to determine unilaterally and without process whether that misconduct has occurred immediately collides with the Due Process Clause's prohibition against arbitrary deprivation of liberty. Pp. 574-575.
(c) A 10-day suspension from school is not de minimis and may not be imposed in complete disregard of the Due Process [p566] Clause. Neither the property interest in educational benefits temporarily denied nor the liberty interest in reputation is so insubstantial that suspensions may constitutionally be imposed by any procedure the school chooses, no matter how arbitrary. Pp. 575-576.
2. Due process requires, in connection with a suspension of 10 days or less, that the student be given oral or written notice of the charges against him and, if he denies them, an explanation of the evidence the authorities have and an opportunity to present his version. Generally, notice and hearing should precede the student's removal from school, since the hearing may almost immediately follow the misconduct, but if prior notice and hearing are not feasible, as where the student's presence endangers persons or property or threatens disruption of the academic process, thus justifying immediate removal from school, the necessary notice and hearing should follow as soon as practicable. Pp. 577-584.
372 F.Supp. 1279, affirmed.
WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, STEWART, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 584. [p567]