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Decision No. 15,716

Appeal of D.B., on behalf of his daughters M.B. and S.B., from action of the Board of Education of the Blind Brook-Rye Union Free School District regarding student discipline and application for the removal of Dr. Ronald D. Valenti as Superintendent.

Decision No. 15,716

(February 1, 2008)

Keane & Beane, P.C., attorneys for respondents, Aileen T. Noonan, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.-Petitioner appeals the decision of the Board of Education of the Blind Brook-Rye Union Free School District (“respondent board”) to exclude his daughters, M.B. and S.B., from a class trip.  Petitioner also seeks the removal of Dr. Ronald D. Valenti as superintendent.  The appeal must be dismissed and the application must be denied.

In May of 2007, petitioner’s daughters were involved in an email exchange with another student.  The emails were brought to the attention of middle school staff by the other student and two other classmates.  According to district staff, the students expressed concern that given the content of the emails, there would be violence during the class trip which was scheduled for the next day.  Based on the content of the emails and the concerns raised by the students, the district’s assistant principal excluded all three students from the trip.  Petitioner appealed to respondent board by letter dated July 6, 2007.  Later that same month, petitioner and his family moved to Connecticut.  By letter dated July 30, 2007, respondent board denied petitioner’s appeal.  This appeal ensued.

Petitioner seeks a determination that district officials failed to follow state law and district policy. 

Petitioner contends that the exclusion from the trip was, in essence, an out of school suspension and that he and his daughters were denied due process under state law and district policy.  Petitioner seeks expungement of district records.  Petitioner also asks that certain district staff as well as respondent board members be disciplined and that Superintendent Valenti be removed from office.

Respondents contend, among other things, that the appeal must be dismissed as moot and for failure to join necessary parties.

I must first address petitioners’ reply.  The purpose of a reply is to respond to new material or affirmative defenses set forth in an answer (8 NYCRR §§275.3 and 275.14).  A reply is not meant to buttress allegations in the petition or to belatedly add assertions that should have been in the petition (Appeal of E.R., 45 Ed Dept Rep 487, Decision No. 15,389; Appeal of Ramroop, 45 id. 473, Decision No. 15,385; Appeal of C.R., 45 id. 303, Decision No 15,330).  Therefore, while I have reviewed the reply, I have not considered those portions containing new allegations or exhibits that are not responsive to new material or affirmative defenses set forth in the answer.

To the extent petitioner seeks disciplinary action against respondent board members and the district’s principal, assistant principal, director of guidance and social worker, the appeal must be dismissed for failure to join necessary parties.  A party whose rights would be adversely affected by a determination of an appeal in favor of a petitioner is a necessary party and must be joined as such (Appeal of Samuel, 45 Ed Dept Rep 418, Decision No. 15,371; Appeal of Meringolo, 45 id. 128, Decision No. 15,281; Appeal of Kelly, 45 id. 38, Decision No. 15,253).  Joinder requires that an individual be clearly named as a respondent in the caption and served with a copy of the notice of petition and petition to inform the individual that he or she should respond to the petition and enter a defense (Appeal of Samuel, 45 Ed Dept Rep 418, Decision No. 15,371; Appeal of Meringolo, 45 id. 128, Decision No. 15,281; Appeal of Kelly, 45 id. 38, Decision No. 15,253).  Petitioner did not serve the individual board members or district staff with a copy of his petition nor did he name them as respondents in the petition.  The appeal must, therefore, be dismissed as to those individuals for failure to join them as necessary parties.

To the extent that petitioner seeks the removal of respondent Valenti, the appeal must be dismissed for lack of standing.  A district resident has standing to bring a removal proceeding pursuant to Education Law §306 against a school official within the district within which he or she resides (Appeal of Berman, 46 Ed Dept Rep 64, Decision No. 15,442; Application of Dunham, et al., 42 id. 298, Decision No. 14,860; Application of Wilson, 41 id. 196, Decision No. 14,663).  At the time petitioner commenced the instant removal application, he was no longer a resident within respondent’s district.  Accordingly, he no longer has standing to seek the removal of respondent Valenti.

With respect to petitioner’s challenge to his daughters’ exclusion and the expungement of records, 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 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).  The exclusion of petitioners’ daughters from the class trip has already occurred.  Moreover, the district avers that there is no record of any disciplinary action taken in its disciplinary files or in the students’ files.  The district further avers that no record of the incident was sent in the student records transferred to petitioner’s daughters’ new school district.  Accordingly, since no further meaningful relief can be provided, the appeal must be dismissed as moot.

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

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