Goss v. Lopez,
419 U.S. 565 (1975)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565 (1975)

Goss v. Lopez

No. 73-898

Argued October 16, 1974

Decided January 22, 1975

419 U.S. 565


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. 419 U. S. 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. 419 U. S. 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. 419 U. S. 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

Page 419 U. S. 566

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. 419 U. S. 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. 419 U. S. 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. 419 U. S. 584.

Page 419 U. S. 567

Primary Holding

Due process provides a property right for students in their education, so a hearing is required before they are deprived of it.


Schools in Ohio were permitted to suspend or expel a student for misconduct, as long as the parents of the student were informed of the disciplinary action and the reasons for it within 24 hours. A student who was expelled was allowed to appeal the decision to the Board of Education, while a student who was suspended was not offered the right to an appeal. However, the statute provided a description of behavior for which a student may be suspended. Nine students brought a constitutional claim in federal court on the grounds that they had been suspended for 10 days without a hearing.



  • Byron Raymond White (Author)
  • William Orville Douglas
  • William Joseph Brennan, Jr.
  • Potter Stewart
  • Thurgood Marshall

State laws impose a duty to provide education to students between the ages of five and 21, and the state also requires mandatory attendance of at least 32 weeks per year. These statutes give rise to a property interest in public education for each of the students. While schools may have separate rules to determine when a suspension or expulsion is appropriate, fundamental fairness requires that each school institute certain procedures to investigate alleged misconduct. In addition to the property interest, a liberty interest also is at stake because of the impact of a suspension or expulsion on a students's reputation.

The suspensions of the students were recorded and likely would undermine their reputations in the eyes of teachers and fellow students. Disciplinary actions also have a negative effect on the availability of higher education and employment. This means that the state may not decide unilaterally that misconduct has occurred and punish a student for it. Notice and hearing requirements also are implied under Brown v. Board of Education (1955), which identified education as an important government function from which students cannot lightly be excluded.

Notice can be written or oral, but the student should have an opportunity to present his or her account of events. The school also must make its evidence in support of the disciplinary action available to the student.


  • Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr. (Author)
  • Warren Earl Burger
  • Harry Andrew Blackmun
  • William Hubbs Rehnquist

Due process does not arise in the context of educational suspensions. The courts should leave these issues to educational authorities and legislatures. The Constitution does not provide a foundation for a right not to be suspended without notice and due process.

Case Commentary

This decision seemed to strike a balance between protecting the rights of students to education and allowing public school administrators to retain their decision-making discretion. Administrators would be required to document the misconduct giving rise to the suspension and disclose it in writing to parents of the students. At that stage, the students (or their parents) could decide whether to pursue a hearing.

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