Goss v. Lopez (1975)

High school students 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.

Citation: 419 U.S. 565 (1975)
Date decided: Jan 22, 1975
Longer case name: Goss v. Lopez
Law type: Civil
Jurisdiction level:Federal
State of origin: Ohio
Topic(s):Due process, Education, and School discipline
Lists:Important cases
Attorneys:Peter D. Roos (Harvard Center for Law and Education) argued the cause for appellees. With him on the brief were Denis Murphy and Kenneth C. Curtin.
Others involved:Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed by David Bonderman, Peter Van N. Lockwood, Paul L. Tractenberg, David Rubin, and W. William Hodes for the National Committee for Citizens in Education et al.; by Alan H. Levine, Melvin L. Wulf, and Joel M. Gora for the American Civil Liberties Union; by Robert H. Kapp, R. Stephen Browning, and Nathaniel R. Jones for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People et al.; and by Marian Wright Edelman for the Children’s Defense Fund of the Washington Research Project, Inc., et al.
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Case Importance

In Goss v. Lopez, the Supreme Court ruled that students have both a “property interest” and a “liberty interest” in public education. From Wikipedia: “The Court held that a 10-day suspension was not a de minimis deprivation of property. It also stated that suspending students had the potential of seriously harming their reputation and affecting their future employment and education. The Court also 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, students ‘do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door.'”

Case Details

(The syllabus is not part of the opinion, but is a summary prepared by the court reporter as a convenience.)


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

From the opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

This appeal by various administrators of the Columbus, Ohio, Public School System (CPSS) challenges the judgment of a three-judge federal court, declaring that appellees – various high school students in the CPSS – were denied due process of law contrary to the command of the Fourteenth Amendment in that they were temporarily suspended from their high schools without a hearing either prior to suspension or within a reasonable time thereafter, and enjoining the administrators to remove all references to such suspensions from the students’ records

Last modified: 2022-12-27 12:49
Case internal grade: A | Case internal status: OK |
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