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Lamb v. Panhandle Community Unit School District No. 2

decided: July 27, 1987.

MICHAEL LAMB, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
PANHANDLE COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 2, AND JOSEPH R. POPE, ROBERT MATLI, LEE MARTEN, RALPH BAWDEN, KEN ELMORE, FRED ROSSI, AND ROGER WILLIAMS, MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Springfield Division. No. 86 C 3200 - Richard Mills, Judge.

Cummings, Flaum, and Easterbrook, Circuit Judges.

Author: Flaum

FLAUM, Circuit Judge

Michael Lamb appeals from the dismissal of his civil rights suit. The district court dismissed the suit, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. Because Lamb's complaint does not state a claim under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I.

The allegations contained in the complaint, which we presume to be true when reviewing the grant of a motion to dismiss, Patton v. Przybylski, 822 F.2d 697,, slip op. at 1 (7th Cir. 1987), are straightforward. Michael Lamb was a senior in high school. At the end of the school year, on a senior class outing, Lamb admitted that he had been drinking from a cup containing whiskey (mixed with Mountain Dew). The principal suspended Lamb for the remaining three days of the school year. Consequently, Lamb missed his final exams, and was unable to graduate because he did not receive passing grades in three classes.

Robert Pennock also admitted to drinking alcohol on the school outing. Like Lamb, Pennock was suspended for three days, and was not permitted to take his final exams.

The principal, however, permitted both students to take the "Flag and Declaration of Independence" test. Under Illinois law, to graduate from high school, a student must pass this exam. See Ill. Ann. Stat. ch. 122, para. 27-3 (Smith-Hurd Supp. 1986).*fn1 Both Lamb and Pennock passed the test. Unlike Lamb, however, Pennock was able to graduate, because he passed the Flag and Declaration of Independence test and received passing grades in all of his classes.

On June 9, 1986, about two weeks after the suspension, the school board ("the board") held a hearing to consider Lamb's suspension. At the hearing, Lamb and his parents were represented by counsel, and permitted to present their case. The board rejected Lamb's appeal, and upheld his suspension. Lamb then filed a five-count complaint in district court alleging various constitutional violations surrounding the suspension proceedings.

II.

A. Count II: Suspension

Count II of Lamb's complaint alleges a due process violation stemming from the denial of "access to school services without a minimal oral hearing" as required by Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565, 42 L. Ed. 2d 725, 95 S. Ct. 729 (1975). Complaint, count II, para. 17. The Supreme Court, in Goss, set forth the notice and hearing requirement for these situations. The Court held:

Due process requires, in connection with a suspension of 10 days or less, that the student 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 . . . .

There need be no delay between the time "notice" is given and the time of the hearing. In the great majority of cases the disciplinarian may informally discuss the alleged misconduct with the student minutes after it has occurred. We hold only that, in being given an opportunity to explain his version of the facts at this discussion, the student first be told what he is accused of doing and what the basis of the accusation is . . . . Since the hearing may occur almost immediately ...


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