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Decision No. 15,410

Appeal of NORMAN HULING, on behalf of his son CHRISTOPHER, from action of the Board of Education of the South Orangetown Central School District regarding interscholastic athletics.

 

Decision No. 15,410

 

(May 26, 2006)

 

Michael F. McGuire, Esq., attorney for petitioner

 

Shaw & Perelson, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Jillian E. Jackson, Esq., of counsel

 

MILLS,    Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the decision of the Board of Education of the South Orangetown Central School District (“respondent”) suspending his son, Christopher, from participating on its high school’s varsity ice hockey team for a portion of the 2005-2006 season.  The appeal must be dismissed.

At the time this appeal was commenced, Christopher was a junior at respondent’s high school, and had been a member of the varsity ice hockey team.  During hockey season, Christopher participated, on at least two occasions, in “ice time” with the St. Thomas Acquinas College ice hockey team.  By letter dated January 19, 2006, Christopher was notified that he was ineligible to participate on the varsity ice hockey team for the remainder of the 2005-2006 season due to his violation of section 7 of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Eligibility Standards governing high school interscholastic sports.  Section 7 provides that “[a] student is no longer eligible to represent the school in that sport in that season if the student participates in practice or competition with or against any college athletic squad during that season.”  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on February 16, 2006.

Petitioner alleges that his son was never advised that participation in a “college club activity” was prohibited or that this activity would jeopardize his eligibility to participate on the high school varsity ice hockey team.  Petitioner cites Robin v. New York State Public High School Athletics Assn., et al., 71 AD2d 1009 (1979) for the proposition that, in the absence of evidence that a student knew of the rule prohibiting high school students from participating with college teams, it is an abuse of discretion to suspend a student for such activity.  Petitioner alleges that Christopher’s suspension from the ice hockey team was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and in violation of law.  Petitioner also alleges that the decision to suspend Christopher was made without adequate notice or the opportunity for a hearing, and prior to a determination by the New York State Public High School Athletics Association.  Finally, petitioner alleges that Christopher’s coach was aware that Christopher availed himself of “free ice time” during practice sessions of the St. Thomas Acquinas College hockey team.

Respondent alleges that the appeal is moot and that petitioner has failed to meet the burden of establishing the facts upon which he seeks relief and to demonstrate a clear legal right to the relief requested.  Respondent also alleges that its determination to suspend Christopher from participating on the varsity ice hockey team was neither arbitrary nor capricious.

The appeal must be dismissed as moot.  The Commissioner will only decide matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision on a state of facts which no longer exist or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of B.K. and R.K., 44 Ed Dept Rep 195, Decision No. 15,146; Appeal of V.L., 44 id. 160, Decision No. 15,132; Appeal of Garvin, 44 id. 30, Decision No. 15,087).  In this matter, petitioner’s demand for relief was that Christopher be restored immediately to the varsity ice hockey team.  Petitioner’s stay request was denied, and the 2005-2006 ice hockey season has ended.  Moreover, Christopher is eligible to participate on the varsity ice hockey team during the 2006-2007 season.  Therefore, there is no possibility of any meaningful relief and the appeal must be dismissed as moot.

Even if the appeal were not dismissed on procedural grounds, it would be dismissed on the merits.  In an appeal to the Commissioner, a petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested and the burden of establishing the facts upon which petitioner seeks relief (8 NYCRR �275.10; Appeal of Patton, et al., 42 Ed Dept Rep 226, Decision No. 14,832; Appeal of Pope, 40 id. 473, Decision No. 14,530).

Petitioner alleges that the Robin case is controlling because neither he nor Christopher knew that participation in practice sessions with college athletes would jeopardize his eligibility to play on the high school varsity ice hockey team.  In Robin, the Court’s decision in favor of the student athlete was based upon a finding that the student was unaware of the rule prohibiting high school student athletes from practicing with a college team.  Here, however, Christopher’s ice hockey coach avers that, prior to the 2004-2005 ice hockey season, he informed Christopher that it was impermissible for him to practice with the St. Thomas Acquinas College team during the high school ice hockey season and that doing so could result in ineligibility to play on the varsity team.  Therefore, the facts of this case are distinguishable and Robin does not control.

In light of this disposition I need not address the parties’ remaining contentions.

 

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE