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Decision No. 15,081

Appeal of YOLANDA GIOVANNIELLO, on behalf of her daughter BREANNA, from action of the Board of Education of the Cold Spring Harbor Central School District regarding attendance zones.

 

 

(July 15, 2004)

 

Ehrlich, Frazer & Feldman, attorneys for respondent, Jerome H. Ehrlich, Esq., of counsel

 

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the determination of the Board of Education of the Cold Spring Harbor Central School District ("respondent") that her daughter, Breanna, may not attend school outside of the attendance zone in which she resides.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Respondent"s district has two elementary schools: West Side Elementary School ("West Side") and Lloyd Harbor Elementary School ("Lloyd Harbor").  Respondent has established attendance zones for both schools. 

Under respondent's general policy, the location of a child's residence determines which elementary school the child attends.  Thus, a child who resides within the West Side attendance zone must attend West Side and a child who resides within the Lloyd Harbor attendance zone must attend Lloyd Harbor.  There are two exceptions to this policy:  (1) a classified student may attend a school outside of the student"s attendance zone upon direction of the Committee on Special Education; and (2) a sixth-grade student is permitted to complete that grade at the student"s former elementary school when the student"s family moves into a different attendance zone, as long as the student resided in the original attendance zone on October 1 of the school year in question.

At the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year, two of petitioner's three daughters, Breanna, a fourth grader, and Jackie, a sixth grader, attended West Side.  The family then resided at Crosby Place in Cold Spring Harbor, which is within West Side's attendance zone.  On or about September 22, 2003, petitioner notified the West Side principal that her family would be moving from Cold Spring Harbor to Lloyd Harbor, in Lloyd Harbor's attendance zone, and requested that both Breanna and Jackie be permitted to continue attending West Side.  The principal advised petitioner to address her request to the superintendent.

Petitioner submitted her request to the superintendent, who advised petitioner that Jackie could complete sixth grade at West Side, provided that she resided within West Side's attendance zone on October 1, 2003 and that petitioner provide Jackie"s transportation.  However, the superintendent denied petitioner's request for Breanna to continue at West Side based on respondent's attendance zone policy.

 According to the petition, on or about October 20, 2003, petitioner and her family moved to Abbington Drive in Lloyd Harbor, within the Lloyd Harbor attendance zone.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner's request for interim relief was denied on November 19, 2003.

Petitioner argues that Breanna and her family will suffer "innumerable hardships" if Breanna is required to transfer to Lloyd Harbor.  She claims that Breanna has  difficulty adjusting to change and questions the effect the change may have on her academic performance.  Finally, petitioner claims that Breanna should be allowed to continue attending West Side because it has fewer fourth grade students per class than Lloyd Harbor.

Respondent maintains that petitioner has failed to establish that she is entitled to the requested relief.  Respondent argues that pupil placement is a matter of educational policy, within the discretion of the district.  Respondent claims its attendance zone policy is rational and that its decision regarding petitioner's daughter is consistent with this policy.  In addition, respondent claims that its policy balances the student population between the two elementary schools.  Additionally, respondent maintains that the differences in class size at West Side and Lloyd Harbor are not pedagogically significant.

Pursuant to Education Law "1709(3) and (33), a board of education has the authority and responsibility to manage and administer the affairs of the school district, including the assignment of pupils to schools therein (Matter of Older, et al. v Board of Ed., 27 NY2d 333; Appeal of P.S., 39 Ed Dept Rep 806, Decision No. 14,387; Appeal of Ibrahim, 39 id. 155, Decision No. 14,200).  In the assignment of pupils to schools, a board of education has broad discretion (Matter of Addabbo v. Donovan, 22 AD2d 383; aff'd 16 NY2d 619, cert den 382 US 905; Appeal of the Lancaster Parent Alliance, 38 Ed Dept Rep 356, Decision No. 14,053).  Accordingly, a board's decision regarding school assignments will only be overturned when found to be arbitrary, capricious or contrary to sound educational policy (Matter of Older, supra). Moreover, petitioner bears the burden of demonstrating that respondent"s action is arbitrary, capricious or contrary to sound educational policy (Appeal of Johnson, 37 Ed Dept Rep 465, Decision No. 13,906; Appeal of Sherwood, et al., 33 id. 410, Decision No. 13,096; Appeal of McNerney, et al., 28 id. 250, Decision No. 12,097).  I find that petitioner has failed to meet that burden.

Respondent's policy requires students to attend the elementary school in the attendance zone in which they reside, with two limited exceptions that are not applicable to Breanna.  There is no dispute that Breanna resides in the Lloyd Harbor attendance zone.  Thus, petitioner has no legal basis to insist that Breanna remain at West Side.

The fact that Breanna may have some difficulty adjusting to a new school, while regrettable, is not a basis for overturning respondent's decision (Appeal of Sponcy, 33 Ed Dept Rep 126, Decision No. 12,998; Appeal of Cullen, 32 id. 179, Decision No. 12,798).  While I am sympathetic to petitioner's wishes to have Breanna attend the same school as her sister, there is no legal basis to grant the relief petitioner seeks (Appeal of Kershaw, 37 Ed Dept Rep 186, Decision No. 13,837; Appeal of Barbara D. and James D., 34 id. 118, Decision No. 13,252).

I conclude that respondent's decision in this matter is not arbitrary, capricious or contrary to sound educational policy and therefore, I will not disturb it.

 

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE