Goss v. Lopez (1975)

In 1971, there was widespread racial tension and unrest in Columbus , Ohio .  After school officials cancelled the Black History Week that students had organized and whites shot two African-American students, protests were held in high schools and junior high schools in the city.  School officials suspended a large number of students for ten days without any kind of a hearing. Some, like Dwight Lopez, maintained they were bystanders to demonstrations, and had done nothing wrong.  Nine of those students brought a lawsuit against the Columbus Board of Education challenging their suspension.  The case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which made its ruling in Goss v. Lopez in 1975.          

By 5-4, the court ruled that students were entitled to due process rights, even in cases of short suspensions.  At the very minimum, the court said, a student "must be given some kind of notice and afforded some kind of hearing."  In cases of suspensions lasting ten days or less, the student must be "given oral or written notice of the charges against him and, if he denies them, an explanation of the evidence the authorities have and an opportunity to present his side of the story."   

Dissenting justices feared the ruling would make it much more difficult to maintain discipline in schools and give federal courts "a vast new role in society" as students turned to them whenever they didn't like how they were treated in schools.

Listen to the oral arguments: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1974/1974_73_898
Read the decision:

Late in 2007, after they were given 90-day suspensions for a Facebook entry in which they identified a teacher as a pedophile, three Taylor High School students sued their school in federal court. The students argued that the Facebook entry should be considered protected speech since it was a parody created off campus, and that only seven people had access to see it. The school district said allowing the students to stay in school would hurt teacher morale

In 2002, a student in North Canton was suspended because his personal website contained sexual material and profanity. The school determined that he had accessed the web site on school grounds and suspended him for his vulgar language. When the issue was taken to court, the judge ruled that the school the school showed no evidence that the website caused disruption, and ordered the student to be reinstated.

In 2000, a senior at Nordonia Hills High School received a $16,500 settlement from his school district after being suspended for 10 days following the publication of a newspaper horoscope with satirical references to school violence.   He had written the column before the killings in Colombine High School in Littleton , Colorado in 1999, and it had received the approval of the newspaper adviser.  It appeared in print days after the killings, and caused the student to be investigated by the police and Secret Service. 

In May 2006, students in Newark High School collected nearly 400 signatures on a petition demanding that police stop using Tasers in school.   They took the action after a police officer had jolted a ninth grader with a Taser in an effort to break up a fight between two boys.   Tasers are hand-held weapons that when shot, deliver a jolt of electricity of up to 50,000 volts.  When struck, a person becomes immobilized.  Although police say they are safer than guns, there have been instances of deaths caused by the use of Tasers. 

In 2000, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled by 2-1 that schools could prohibit Nicholas Boroff, a senior at Van Wert High School, from wearing a T-shirt it deemed vulgar or "plainly offensive."  His shirt, bearing the name of Marilyn Manson, had depicted a three-faced Jesus and the words "See no Truth, Hear No Truth, Speak No Truth."  On the back of the shirt was the word "BELIEVE" appeared, with LIE highlighted.  He was told to turn the shirt inside-out, go home and change it or leave school and be considered a truant.  He left, and returned with a different Marilyn Manson shirt on the next day.  He was warned by school officials that Marilyn Manson shirts were banned on school grounds.  The school principal stated that the shirts were offensive because they promote "demoralizing values that are contrary to the educational mission of the school."  In finding for the school, judges in the majority cited the US Supreme Court's opinion in Bethel School District v. Fraser (see US Supreme Court).  The dissenting judge argued that a school cannot ban T-shirts simply because they disagreed with their message.

(The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has jurisdiction over Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan as well as Ohio).