The Burger Court (1969–86)

Rights of Students

Do public school students have due-process rights?

Yes, the Burger Court ruled in Goss v. Lopez (1975) that public school students are entitled to a degree of due process. The case involved 10-day suspensions of several students in Columbus, Ohio, for a disturbance in the lunchroom. One of the suspended students, Dwight Lopez, contended that he was not involved in the lunchroom disturbance but was merely an innocent bystander.

Ohio law allowed school officials to suspend students without giving them an opportunity to defend themselves in a hearing. Lopez and other students sued, contending that the school’s process in suspending them violated their rights to procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Lopez and the other students, finding that a 10-day suspension triggered the protections of the Due Process Clause. The Court concluded that “at a minimum,” the students “must be given some kind of notice and afforded some kind of hearing.”


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