Wood v. Strickland

PETITIONER: John P. Wood, et al.
RESPONDENT: Peggy Strickland, et al.
LOCATION: Mena Public High School

DOCKET NO.: 73-1285
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 420 US 308 (1975)
ARGUED: Oct 16, 1974
DECIDED: Feb 25, 1975
GRANTED: Apr 15, 1974

ADVOCATES:
Ben Core - for respondents
G. Ross Smith - for petitioners

Facts of the case

Peggy Strickland and Virginia Crain were sophomores at Mena Public High School in Mena, Arkansas. They heard about a school meeting where both parents and students would be present and decided to spike the punch with alcohol. Ten days later, Mrs. Curtis Powell, a teacher at the high school, learned of the prank and confronted the girls. The girls confessed based on the understanding that she would handle their punishment. The next day, the teacher informed the girls that the principal, P. T. Waller, heard about the incident and she would not be able to help them unless they confessed to the principal. The girls did so, and Mr. Waller suspended them for two weeks pending a decision by the school board. The school board voted to suspend the girls for the rest of the semester. The girls, their parents, and their counsel were present at a subsequent meeting to ask the board to reconsider the suspensions. The board denied the request.

Strickland and Crain sued the members of the school board, administrators, and the school district of Mena, Arkansas for damages resulting from their suspension, which they claimed violated their right to due process. The jury could not reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared. The district court directed a verdict for the school board because there was no evidence of malice toward the girls. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed and ordered a new trial.

Question

Can a school district be liable for a violation of Due Process if there is no evidence that the violation was committed with malice?

Media for Wood v. Strickland

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 16, 1974 in Wood v. Strickland

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - February 25, 1975 in Wood v. Strickland

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 73-1285, Wood against Strickland will be announced by Mr. Justice White.

Byron R. White:

This case is here from the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

For the reasons stated in the opinion we then filed a judgment the Court of Appeals has vacated.

The case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.

Mr. Justice Powell has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part and he was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Blackmun and Rehnquist.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice White.