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Decision No. 14,556

Appeal of LENNA CHAPMAN, on behalf of MIRANDA CHAPMAN, RICHARD HALL, MASSUAD BOBBY, VINCENT FAVATA, NICOLE ZIMMERMAN, DOUGLAS LIANTONIO, DOUGLAS DeBONET, KATLIN ENRIQUEZ, STEPHEN BELL, DAN ANEMONE, MICHAEL HOF and ANIKA JANSSEN, from action of the Board of Education of the Middle Country Central School District regarding transportation.

Decision No. 14,556

(April 10, 2001)

Guercio & Guercio, attorneys for respondent, Michael D. Jones and Thomas M. Volz, Esqs., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the refusal of the Board of Education of the Middle Country Central School District ("respondent") to provide immediate transportation for students in a child safety zone. The appeal must be dismissed.

On or about June 28, 2000, petitioner requested that the district review the safety of an area of Stony Brook Road between Routes 25 and 347 in the village of Lake Grove, New York, within respondent's district. Although her request is not included in the record, petitioner apparently was concerned about the safety of her daughter and eleven other children walking to school in that area on a roadway with high-speed traffic and no shoulder or sidewalk.

Pursuant to petitioner's request, the district commenced an investigation on July 6, 2000, to determine whether the area in question would qualify for designation as a child safety zone. The investigation included a review of the area, as well as the anticipated cost to the district to provide transportation to students residing there. On November 1, 2000, respondent declared the area a child safety zone and resolved to begin providing transportation to residents in the area for the 2001-02 school year, pending voter approval at the May 2001 budget vote. This appeal ensued.

Petitioner seeks an order compelling respondent to provide immediate transportation for her daughter and eleven other children who reside in the area. Respondent contends that petitioner lacks standing to assert the rights of students other than her daughter and fails to demonstrate a legal right to the relief requested. Respondent also asserts that its actions were reasonable and complied with law.

To maintain an appeal to the Commissioner pursuant to Education Law "310, a party must be aggrieved in the sense of having suffered personal damage or impairment of his or her civil, personal or property rights. While petitioner may bring an appeal on behalf of her own daughter, her status as a resident of respondent's district is insufficient for her to assert the rights of the other eleven students named in the caption of the appeal (Appeal of Allert, 32 Ed Dept Rep 538, Decision No. 12,909). Therefore, I will consider petitioner's appeal only to the extent it concerns her daughter.

The appeal must be dismissed. Education Law "3635-b authorizes boards of education to provide pupil transportation in child safety zones. Section 3635-b(2) provides that a board of education "is authorized to adopt a resolution providing for pupil transportation in child safety zones, subject to voter approval, where applicable, of a proposition to expend money for such transportation..." That section further defines a child safety zone as:

. . .a designated area of a school district, including at least one personal residence, within which children who reside at a lesser distance from the school they legally attend than the minimum transportation limit of the district will be provided transportation on the basis that their most direct walking route to school will traverse a hazardous zone.

Section 3635-b(4) requires the board, upon receipt of a proper written petition, to investigate whether a hazardous zone exists which requires the establishment of a child safety zone. However, the petition "shall not" be submitted later than the first day of March preceding the school year for which transportation is requested. The only exception to the March 1 deadline is for parents who move into the district after the deadline.

Once the board determines that a hazardous zone exists which can be reasonably alleviated, in the opinion of the board, only by establishing a child safety zone and providing transportation in and through such child safety zone, and that no reasonable, less costly alternatives to such transportation exist to alleviate the situation, the board shall present a separate proposition to expend money for transportation in child safety zones at the annual district meeting (Education Law "3635-b[5]). A special district meeting may only be called when the designation of a new hazardous safety zone is needed as a result of a change in circumstances that was unknown to the board and not reasonably foreseeable at the time of the annual meeting (Education Law "3635-b[6]).

In the instant case, petitioner submitted her request to respondent on June 28, 2000, well past the statutorily mandated March 1 deadline and after the district's annual budget vote for the 2000-01 school year. She does not allege that she is a new resident in the district, and thus, there is no basis to extend the statutory filing deadline.

Furthermore, the statute requires respondent to submit a proposition to expend money for transportation in a designated child safety zone for voter approval at the district’s annual meeting. Respondent's next opportunity to do so is not until the next annual meeting in May 2001. Moreover, there is nothing in the record before me to indicate that changed circumstances exist such that a special meeting should be called pursuant to Education Law "3635-b(6). In an appeal before the Commissioner, petitioner has the burden of establishing the facts upon which relief is sought (8 NYCCR "275.10). Petitioner has failed to meet this burden. Accordingly, I cannot find that respondent acted arbitrarily or capriciously in refusing to provide immediate transportation for petitioner's daughter.

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE