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Goss v. Lopez

The Dissent

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Powell dismissed the notion that a ten-day suspension represents an infringement of the interests of students serious enough to require constitutional protection. His dissent contended that the Court's decision opened the door for unnecessary meddling by the courts into the day-to-day operations of the public school system:

The State's interest, broadly put, is in the proper functioning of its public school system for the benefit of all pupils and the public generally. Few rulings would interfere more extensively in the daily functioning of schools than subjecting routine discipline to the formalities and judicial oversight of due process. Suspensions are one of the traditional means--ranging from keeping a student after class to permanent expulsion--used to maintain discipline in the schools. It is common knowledge that maintaining order and reasonable decorum in school buildings and classrooms is a major educational problem, and one which has increased significantly in magnitude in recent years. Often the teacher, in protecting the rights of other children to an education (if not his or their safety), is compelled to rely on the power to suspend.

Goss v. Lopez raised some basic and vital questions in the areas of public education, individual rights, and judicial intervention. The narrow decision in this case reflected the strong arguments on both sides of the issues.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Goss v. Lopez - Significance, The Lower Court Rulings, The Majority's Argument, The Dissent, Further Readings