D. The Lack of Supreme Court Guidance: Goss’ Sparse Language
Goss represents the starting point of what due process school districts must afford to
students facing disciplinary charges.126 This case involved several students facing long-term
suspensions arising from various accusations of disruptive conduct at several Ohio junior high and
high schools. 127 The opinion reviewed a decision issued by a three-judge panel of the U.S. District
Court for the Southern District of Ohio, which granted an injunction in the students’ favor and
ordered the administrators to expunge the students’ records because they were not afforded due
process under the Fourteenth Amendment. 128 In reviewing the District Court’s decision, the Court
established that students facing removal from school on disciplinary grounds are entitled to due
process under the Fourteenth Amendment. 129 The Court reached this conclusion by recognizing
that the removal of a student from school represents the deprivation of a property right—a severe,
rather than de minimis right130—in public education conferred by a state’s constitution and thus
protected by the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause. 131 In addition, the Court recognized
a liberty interest in a student’s right to be free from the stain of misconduct on his or her permanent
record. 132 Consistent with the constitutional requirement to safeguard these deprivations, Goss
held that schools must provide students with “notice and opportunity for hearing appropriate to the
nature of the case.” 133 The Court briefly defined the required hearing as an “informal give-and-take between student and disciplinarian,” with an “opportunity to present [the student’s] side of
the story.” 134
Significantly, Goss limited the scope of its holding to short-term discipline, entailing a
suspension of ten days or less. 135 For discipline entailing longer-term exclusion from school, the
Court simply stated that “longer suspensions or expulsions for the remainder of the school term,
or permanently, may require more formal procedures.” 136 Because of this limitation and the
absence of any subsequent Supreme Court decisions directly addressing the issue, the question of
126 Goss, 419 U.S. at 565.
127 Id. at 570-71.
128 Id. at 567.
129 Id. at 572–73.
130 Id. at 576 (Concluding that the nature of education, not the weight of the exclusion, is the primary factor in
determining the severity of deprivation: “[T]he total exclusion from the educational process . . . is a serious event in
the life of the suspended child”). In determining that the exclusion from education is more than a de minimis
deprivation, the Court hearkened to the Brown court’s tenet: “education is perhaps the most important function in state
and local government.” Id. (quoting Brown, 347 U.S. at 493).
131 Id. at 572–73 (where a state confers a right of basic public education and makes attendance compulsory, the state
may not withdraw that right upon a student’s alleged misconduct without constitutional safeguards to ensure the
misconduct occurred) (citing West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 637 (1943). The Court
compared the right to receiving public education given by a state to other established rights requiring due process,
such as the continued right to receive welfare benefits. Goss, 419 U.S. at 573 (citing Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254
132 See Goss, 419 U.S. at 575.
133 Id. at 579 (citing Mullane v. Central Hanover Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306 (1950)).
134 Id. at 581, 584.
135 Id. at 584.
136 Id. (emphasis added).