The Due Process Rights of Students
The issue: What rights to process to students in public schools have before they are punished or dismissed for disciplinary or academic reasons?
The most obvious requirement of the Due Process Clause if that states afford certain procedures ("due process") before depriving individuals of certain interests ("life, liberty, or property").  Although it is probably the case that the framers used the phrase "life, liberty, or property" to be a shorthand for important interests, the Supreme Court adopted a more literal interpretation and requires individuals to show that the interest in question is either their life, their liberty, or their property--if the interest doesn't fall into one of those three boxes, no matter how important it is, it doesn't qualify for constitutional protection.  Thus, for example, the Court has ruled that the government may  severely damage an individual's reputation (by, for example, putting his name on a list of "known shoplifters") without affording process.

The Due Process Clause serves two basic goals.  One is to produce, through the use of fair procedures, more accurate results: to prevent the wrongful deprivation of interests.  The other goal is to make people feel that the government has treated them fairly by, say, listening to their side of the story.

The Due Process Clause is essentially a guarantee of basic fairness.  Fairness can, in various cases, have many components: notice, an opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time in a meaningful way, a decision supported by substantial evidence, etc.  In general, the more important the individual right in question, the more process that must be afforded.  No one can be deprived of their life, for example, without the rigorous protections of a criminal trial and special determinations about aggravating factors justifying death.  On the other hand, suspension of a driver's license may occur without many of the same protections.

The cases on this page all concern the due process rights of students.  In Goss v Lopez, the Court considers what due process means for students facing temporary suspension from school because of their alleged violations of school discipline rules.  The Court concludes that accused students must be afforded an informal hearing with school administrators before such suspensions.  In Ingraham v Wright, the issue is whether a hearing of some sort must precede corporal punishment by a school teacher.  Finally, Horowitz v Board of Curators considers what procedures are required before a student may be dismissed for academic failure. 

Due Process Clause
[No State shall] deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

Goss v. Lopez (1975)
Ingraham v. Wright (1977)
Horowitz v. Board of Curators, University of Missouri (1978)

UMKC School of Medicine, attended by Charlene Horowitz until her expulsion, which led to a procedural due process challenge decided in Horowitz v Board of Curators, University of Missouri.


1. Who is protected by the Due Process Clause?  Does it protect, for example, aliens?
2.  How does the Court determine whether an individual interest is a property interest within the meaning of the Due Process Clause?  What might create "a legitimate claim of entitlement in law"?
3.  How does the Court determine whether an individual interest is a liberty interest within the meaning of the Due Process Clause?
4.  If a state might create property interests through contracts, why can it not at the same time limit the process it will afford when it takes away those interests it has created?
5.  What two factors does the Court look to in weighing an individual interest to determine how much process must be afforded before it is taken away?
6.  In weighing an individual interest to determine the amount of process to be afforded, should we look at the importance of the interest in question to the particular litigant before the court, or instead look at the interest's importance to the category of persons who might object to its deprivation by the government?
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