Carey v. Piphus

435 U.S. 247 (1978)


Piphus (P) was a student at a Chicago Vocational School and during school hours was observed by the principal smoking what seemed to be marijuana with another student. When the students saw the principal, they threw the cigarette into a nearby hedge. P was suspended for 20 days. P denied smoking marijuana. A hearing was held to explain the purpose of the suspension. P sued D under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 claiming P was suspended without due process of law. Brisco (P1) was in sixth grade and wore an earring to school against school policy, and when confronted with that issue he refused to remove his earring asserting it was a symbol of black pride. P1 was suspended, and P1 sued under 42 U.S.C. section 1983. P's and P1's cases were consolidated, and the District Court found that both students were suspended without procedural due process. The court declined damages in that both Ps did not admit any evidence of damage. The students were given declaratory relief in the form of the deletion of the suspension from their records. The court then dismissed the complaints. Ps appealed. The case was reversed and remanded, but the Appeals Court denied substantial nonpunitive damages because there was no proof of individualized injury to Ps but decided that Ps were entitled to recover substantial damages to compensate them for the inherent nature of the wrong even though the suspension may be found to be justified. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.