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Decision No. 15,673

Appeal of D.U., on behalf of his children J.U. and N.U., from action of the Board of Education of the Rondout Valley Central School District regarding transportation.

 

Decision No. 15,673

(October 10, 2007)

 

Shaw, Perelson, May & Lambert, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Jeffrey J. Schiro, Esq., of counsel

 

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the refusal of the Board of Education of the Rondout Valley Central School District (“respondent”) to reimburse him for the transportation expenses he incurred in transporting his children, J.U. and N.U., to and from respondent’s schools from September 6, 2006 to January 30, 2007.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Prior to the start of the 2006-2007 school year, petitioner and his family resided on Cooper Street in Accord, New York, within respondent’s district.  In March 2006, petitioner became disabled and was no longer able to work.  Subsequently, petitioner was unable to pay the rent for this home, and the family was evicted on or about August 31, 2006.  Since the eviction, petitioner and his family have stayed with relatives on Sawkill Road in Kingston, New York, outside of the district.

On or about September 6, 2006, petitioner completed the district’s health/emergency information form and indicated that his mailing address was a post office box in Stone Ridge, New York.  Petitioner left blank the residence address section of this form.  Petitioner identified J.U.’s and N.U.’s grandmother, who resides at the Sawkill Road residence, and his girlfriend, who resides on Jansen Road in Stone Ridge, New York, as emergency contacts if he were unavailable.

On or about January 30, 2007, petitioner’s girlfriend contacted the district’s assistant superintendent and homeless liaison (“homeless liaison”) to inform him that J.U. and N.U. were homeless.  By letter dated February 22, 2007, the homeless liaison informed petitioner that the district would reimburse him for the transportation expenses he incurred in transporting J.U. and N.U. to and from its schools from January 31, 2007 to February 20, 2007.  The letter included a claim form for petitioner to sign.  Petitioner declined the district’s reimbursement offer and refused to sign the claim form.  This appeal ensued.  The district provided transportation to J.U. and N.U. from February 21, 2007 until the end of the 2006-2007 school year.

Petitioner contends that his children are homeless within the meaning of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 USC §11431 etseq., “McKinney-Vento”) and, therefore, are entitled to receive transportation to and from the district’s schools.  Petitioner asserts that he is entitled to reimbursement for transportation beginning in September 2006 because he notified the district that his family was homeless by leaving blank the residence address section of the health/emergency information form.  Petitioner also alleges that the district knew or should have known that his family was homeless because he listed a post office box address in the mailing address section of this form.  Petitioner further contends that the district knew that his family was homeless prior to January 30, 2007 because at the start of the school year, his son, J.U., informed his guidance counselor that the family was homeless and staying with friends and family.  Petitioner requests a determination that his children are homeless and entitled to transportation provided by respondent’s school district.  Petitioner also seeks reimbursement for transportation he provided from September 6, 2006 to February 20, 2007.

     Respondent contends that petitioner’s children are not entitled to transportation to and from the district’s schools because they are not homeless within the meaning of McKinney-Vento and Education Law §3209.  Respondent further maintains that even if petitioner’s children are deemed to be homeless, the district fulfilled its legal obligation by offering to reimburse petitioner for his transportation expenses from January 31, 2007 to February 20, 2007 and providing transportation to petitioner’s children from on or about February 21, 2007 to the end of the 2006-2007 school year.  To substantiate its claims, respondent submits a letter from the district’s middle school principal to petitioner stating that he had interviewed J.U.’s guidance counselor and that she denied having any knowledge that the family was homeless prior to January 2007.

     A district’s duty to provide transportation to homeless children is triggered when it receives notice of their homeless status (see Education Law §3209[2][e][1] and [2] and 8 NYCRR §100.2[x][4][ii] and [iii]).  Assuming petitioner’s family meets the definition of homeless, petitioner nevertheless has failed to establish that the district had notice of his family’s homeless status prior to January 30, 2007.  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 Hoey and Kosowski, 45 Ed Dept Rep 501, Decision No. 15,394; Application of Bliss, 45 id. 308, Decision No. 15,331; Appeal of Rubinstein, 45 id. 299, Decision No. 15,329).  The petition contains conclusory statements that the district was aware and/or should have been aware that petitioner and his family were homeless because he left blank the residence address section of the health/emergency information form and listed a post office box address in the mailing address section.  I find that this does not constitute sufficient notice of homeless status to the district.  Additionally, respondent submitted a letter from the middle school principal stating that J.U.’s guidance counselor was not aware that petitioner’s family was homeless prior to January 2007.  Therefore, on the record before me, I find that petitioner has failed to establish that the district was aware of his family’s homeless status prior to his girlfriend’s January 30, 2007 telephone conversation with the district’s homeless liaison.  Until that notification, respondent had no basis to treat petitioner’s children as homeless for transportation purposes.

     To the extent that petitioner requests transportation services and/or reimbursement for transportation expenses incurred on or after January 31, 2007, the appeal is moot.  Respondent has agreed to reimburse petitioner for transportation incurred from January 31 through February 20, 2007 and provided transportation thereafter.  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 C.A., Sr., 45 Ed Dept Rep 388, Decision No. 15,360; Appeal of the New York Charter Schools Assn., Inc., et al., 45 id. 376, Decision No. 15,355; Appeal of the Bd. of Trustees of the N. Merrick Public Library, et al., 45 id. 363, Decision No. 15,350).

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

 

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE