paraphernalia. The target of the police action was a group of students who gathered outside the high school gymnasium doors each morning prior to the start of classes. It was believed, based upon the results of a surveillance operation conducted by the local police, that the students would gather for the purpose of using drugs. Consequently, twenty-one students, including the plaintiffs, were arrested, taken inside the gymnasium and searched. Although the police found an undisclosed amount of marijuana and various articles of drug paraphernalia on a number of the students, no contraband was found on the plaintiffs. After the search, the students involved were directed to the Principal's office to sign an attendance sheet. Thereafter, they reported to their regularly scheduled classes. No disciplinary action was taken by school authorities on that date.
By the afternoon of February 1, 1980, the parents of the student-plaintiffs had been told of the arrests and searches which had taken place at the high school. Plaintiff Julian Rappaport contacted the police department in an effort to obtain more complete information with respect to the arrest of his son, Eric.
He also contacted and retained counsel for Eric. Plaintiff James White likewise contacted the local police to discover what evidence they had against his sons, David and Peter. He went to the police station and saw photographs which purported to show David and Peter in the group of students smoking marijuana. He was also told by the police officers involved in the surveillance operation that, with the use of a high-powered lens, they observed his sons smoking.
On Monday, February 4, 1980, the Salisbury Township Police provided defendants Mario Donnangelo, Principal of Salisbury High School, and Ann Buschi, Assistant Principal, with a copy of the official police report on the arrests. After reviewing the report, defendant Buschi spoke with each of the students involved in the incident. These informal discussions took place throughout the course of the school day on February 4, 1980. Among those students with whom she spoke were plaintiffs Peter White and Eric Rappaport. They were told to complete their regularly scheduled classes for Monday, but not to report to classes on Tuesday morning, February 5, 1980. Instead, each student-plaintiff and his parents were asked to attend a suspension hearing being held on Tuesday morning as a result of information provided school officials in the police report. Oral notification of the hearing was ultimately given to all plaintiffs.
In the evening of Monday, February 4, 1980, James White spoke with Julian Rappaport about the hearings scheduled for the following morning. During the course of that conversation, Rappaport told White that he had retained counsel for his son, Eric, and that he was meeting with counsel early Tuesday morning. Plaintiff White decided to retain the same attorney to represent his sons, David and Peter, at their hearings. Consequently, all of the plaintiffs met on Tuesday morning at the office of counsel. During the course of that meeting, plaintiffs' counsel contacted the defendant Donnangelo to tell him that she would be representing the student-plaintiffs at the hearings. In light of this information, the defendants likewise sought to have their attorney present. Because the defendants' attorney was unavailable Tuesday morning, it was agreed that the hearings would be held Wednesday morning, February 6, 1980.
At the hearings on Wednesday morning, testimony was presented by the police officers involved in the surveillance operation. The photographs taken of the student-plaintiffs were part of the evidence as to which the officers testified. Counsel for the plaintiffs cross-examined the officers with respect to their testimony. Although the officers answered questions under cross-examination, they refused to respond to certain inquiries without first conferring with a district attorney. Since no district attorney was present, certain questions went unanswered. Plaintiffs' counsel also questioned defendants Donnangelo and Buschi as to their decision-making process with respect to the suspensions. No testimony was presented by the student-plaintiffs in their own behalf.
At the conclusion of each of the student-plaintiffs' hearings, a ten-day suspension was formally imposed and made retroactive to Tuesday morning, February 5, 1980, at 8:00 A.M. It was explained by defendant Donnangelo that a ten-day suspension would not be made part of the student's permanent record and that each student would be permitted to make up any work he missed.
Subsequent to the suspension hearings, plaintiffs' counsel sought and was successful in obtaining an injunction from the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County against the issuance of the suspensions. Thereafter, the state action was voluntarily dismissed and this action was filed.
In Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565, 581, 42 L. Ed. 2d 725, 95 S. Ct. 729 (1975), the Supreme Court held that a student has a property interest in his right to public education which
qualifies for protection of the Due Process Clause, and 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. [emphasis added].