Goss V. Lopez
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Goss v. Lopez
Until the 1960s, parents and students rarely challenged the disciplinary actions of school authorities, viewing schools as providing instruction, instilling virtue, and fostering the ideals of our nation. Then, as time passed, there was a movement towards youth rights, and with the help of public interest lawyers, students and parents began to challenge schools and their policies in the courts.
The most important decision affecting how schools approach student discipline was Goss v. Lopez, decided by the Supreme Court in 1975. In February and March of 1971, a 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 students future.
The Ohio State law at the time stated that schools can suspend students without providing a hearing. However, Ohio law also said that all students had a right to a free education.
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.
Lopez and Crome joined a group of other students to sue the Columbus Board of Education and the Columbus Public School System. They wanted the court to strike down the Ohio law that allowed principals to suspend students without a hearing. Lopez and the students said the law violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This clause stated that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
On January 2, 1975, the Supreme Court ruled by a decision of 5-4 stating that under the 14th amendment, people cannot be denied life, liberty or property without due process. The court said the right to attend a public school is a property right because it is something valuable that the state provides all students. When a school suspends, it takes away the property right for a certain number of days. Suspensions also harm a students reputation, which is part of liberty and freedom. Because suspensions take away a property right and liberty, schools may not suspend students