What are the details of the Supreme Court case Goss v. Lopez? Why is the case important?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Goss v. Lopez was a case that was decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1975. It had to do with the due process rights enjoyed by students in the public education system.

According to the 5th and the 14th Amendments to the Constitution, people have the right to “due process of law” before they are deprived of their life, liberty, or property.  This means, for example, that a person cannot be put in prison without being given a trial.  Goss was a case that helped to determine what sorts of “due process” had to be given to public school students by those who run the schools.

Dwight Lopez was among many students who were suspended for 10 days by their high school in Ohio.  In accordance with Ohio law, the school informed their parents of the suspensions and the reasons for them.  However, there was no hearing held to determine whether the suspensions were the proper punishment for the students.  Lopez sued on the grounds that this violated his right to due process.

In this case, the Supreme Court sided with Lopez.  It said that the right to an education was, in a sense, a form of property than cannot be taken away from someone without due process of law.  They further decided that it was not enough to simply have the principal decide on the punishment himself.  Instead, they held that there had to be some sort of hearing in order to satisfy the demand for due process.  This case was important because it helped to determine what rights students in public schools have.   

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