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Decision No. 14,458

Appeal of MARGARET SQUIRES, on behalf of KRISTIN SQUIRES, from action of the Board of Education of the William Floyd Union Free School District regarding an attendance policy.

Decision No. 14,458

(September 12, 2000)

Long Island Advocacy Center, Inc., attorney for petitioner, Deborah R. Monheit, Esq., of counsel

Ehrlich, Frazer & Feldman, attorney for respondent, James Pyun, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges the attendance policy of the Board of Education of the William Floyd Union Free School District ("respondent"). The appeal must be dismissed.

Kristin was a 15-year old tenth-grade student at respondent’s high school during the 1998-99 school year. Apparently, Kristin was absent without excuse from many of her classes, which resulted in her removal from those classes pursuant to respondent’s attendance policy ("policy"). According to this policy, a student removed from a course for excessive absence is not allowed to make up the course in respondent’s summer school program. Petitioner was in contact with district administrators throughout the school year in an attempt to resolve Kristin’s situation. This appeal was commenced in June 1999, but held in abeyance while the parties attempted to negotiate an agreement. It appears that Kristin was allowed to attend summer school and also received tutoring, which resolved two of the issues raised in this appeal. However, the parties failed to reach an agreement on all of the issues raised by petitioner and she has now requested a decision in this appeal.

Petitioner contends that Kristin was removed from her math class in October 1998 and assigned to a study hall after three unexcused absences ("cuts") pursuant to the policy. She further contends that Kristin was removed from global studies in January 1999, from English in February, and that by May the only class Kristin was allowed to attend was physical education with the rest of her school day spent in either study halls or in-school suspension. Petitioner asks that I find that the policy, as it was applied to Kristin, amounted to a disciplinary suspension that was imposed without the due process required by Education Law "3214, that Kristin was deprived of her right to an education and that the policy violates the Education Law. Petitioner’s two remaining requests for relief-- access to summer school and tutoring for Kristin--have already been resolved.

Respondent contends that petitioner lacks standing to bring the appeal because Kristin no longer attends its schools and no longer lives in the district. Respondent further contends that the appeal is moot because it is in the process of rewriting its policy. Respondent argues that its policy does not result in defacto suspensions and asserts that it is an effective educational tool.

Respondent contends that petitioner lacks standing because Kristin no longer attends its schools and has moved out of the district. Petitioner denies that Kristin has moved out of the district and contends that she dropped out of school as a result of the policy. Respondent offers no evidence in support of its contention that Kristin no longer lives in the district and as a district resident under the age of 21, she is entitled to reenroll in respondent’s schools to complete her education and would again be subject to respondent’s attendance policy. I, therefore, find that petitioner has standing to bring this appeal on Kristin’s behalf.

However, the appeal must be dismissed as moot. The Commissioner of Education will only decide matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision upon facts which no longer exist or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of Razzano, 39 Ed Dept Rep 303, Decision No. 14,244; Appeal of Davis, 38 id. 805, Decision No. 14,148). Respondent contends that the appeal is moot because it is in the process of changing its policy. My Office of Counsel requested additional information regarding the adoption of this new attendance policy. In its response, respondent states that the district has amended its attendance regulations and that such new regulations will be in effect for the 2000-01 school year. Therefore, the policy petitioner is challenging in this appeal is no longer in effect and the appeal must be dismissed as moot.

In view of this determination it is not necessary for me to address petitioner’s remaining contentions.

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE