Goss V. Lopez

The Supreme Court of the United States handled a case dealing with Columbus Ohio Public School System. Students were denied due process of law by the Fourteenth Amendment because they were suspended from their high schools without a hearing prior to their suspension. The principal suspended 75 students for racial disruptions in the lunchroom and damaging school property. One student, Dwight Lopez, insisted he was innocent. He did not, however, get a hearing to tell his side of the story. Along with eight other students, they brought their case to court.

Ohio law states that free education to all children between six and twenty-one is offered. To Suspend or expel a person for misconduct, the school must notify the student’s parents within 24 hours and tell his parents and the state the reason for expulsion. A student that is expelled, his or her parents have the right to take it to the school board before he or she gets expelled.

In February and March of 1971, six of the named students, Rudolph Sutton, Tyrone Washington, Susan Cooper, Deborah Fox, Clarence Byars, and Bruce Harris, were at the Marion-Franklin High School in Ohio, where each student was suspended for 10 days on account of disruptive behavior or disobedient conduct committed in the sight of the school administrator who ordered the suspension. One student, Tyrone Washington, was among a group of students demonstrating in the school auditorium while a class was being conducted there. He was ordered by the school principal to leave, refused to do so, and was suspended. Rudolph Sutton, in the presence of the principal, physically attacked a police officer who was attempting to remove Tyrone Washington from the auditorium. He was immediately suspended. The other four Marion-Franklin students were suspended for similar acts of violence. No student was given a hearing to determine the real facts. But each, together with his or her parents, was offered the opportunity to attend a conference, after the effective date of the suspension, to discuss the student's future.

Dwight Lopez and Betty Crome were students at Central High school. These students were suspended because they were in connection with a disturbance in the lunchroom, in which some of the school property was damaged. Lopez testified that he was not a party to the destructive conduct and that he was only a bystander. A federal court agreed with the students that they had a right to a hearing. School officials appealed, finally on January 2,1975, the court affirmed the decision of the three judge panel by a 5-4 vote saying that under the 14th amendment, people cannot be denied liberty without due process. Lawyers for the school district had argued that there is no constitutional right to education, so due process does not protect against suspensions. They would further say that due process only applies if a student suffered a "severe loss." The loss of ten school days was not, in their eyes, serve. The court disagreed.

In the book, In Defense of Children, Franklin Zimring and Rayman L. Solomon state that Goss v. Lopez presents a very basic question dealing with the management of the school. Are schools like a family model where problems are resolved in the way that a family resolves problems or are schools more like the bureaucratic model followed in society? In the family model the principal would usually act as the father in resolving problems. Zimring and Solomon feel the traditional family model was a thing of the past by the time the court heard this case. Granting students a hearing before suspension, further changed the history of school government.

Writing for the dissent in this case, Justice Powell stated, "Discipline did not represent harm but was itself an integral part of education. It is no less important then learning to read and write." This idea went along with the dissent option by Justice Black in the Tinker decision when he wrote, "School discipline, like parental discipline, is an integral and important part of training our students to be good students, and better citizens.

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