Lopez, along with a bunch of
other students, were suspended from their high school after it was alleged
they had damaged school property. They were not given a hearing, or an
opportunity to present their case.
Ohio law at the time said
that school can suspend students without providing a hearing.
However, Ohio law also said
that all students had a right to an education.
Lopez et. al. sued, claiming
that the suspension had damaged their reputations and therefore denied
them a liberty interest without procedural
due process, which was an
unconstitutional violation of the 14th Amendment.
In addition, Lopez et. al.
argued that they had been denied a property interest because they were entitled to an education
under Ohio law.
The Trial Court found for
Lopez. The school appealed.
The US Supreme Court affirmed.
The US Supreme Court found
that Ohio had made education a right, and that created a property
Property interests cannot be denied without due
The Court noted that property
interests are not normally created
by the Constitution, but they are created by an independent source such
as State Statutes or rules entitle a citizen to certain benefits.
There is no constitutional
right to an education (See San Antonio Independent School District
v. Rodriguez (523 U.S. 833
The Court found that a
suspension could damage a student's reputation and effect later
educational opportunities. That would damage a student's liberty
interest to pursue further education.
Conversely, compare to Paul
v. Davis (424 U.S. 693 (1976)),
which found that there was no liberty interest in damage
to someone's reputation.
The Court found that due
process can be quite minimal and
still meet constitutional requirements. In this case, all that was
required was an opportunity for the student to present his side of the
story to school officials, and for the school to provide oral and written
notice of the reasons for the suspension.
Compare to Goldberg v.
Kelly (397 U.S. 254 (1970)), which
found that due process required an elaborate formal
It appears that the amount
of due process due is dependent
on the size of the interests involved.
See Matthews v.
Eldridge (424 U.S. 319 (1976)),
which provides factors for the courts to consider when determining how
much due process is due.