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Decision No. 16,209

Appeal of C.T.O., on behalf of her daughter C.O., from action of the Board of Education of the Lyons Central School District regarding an extracurricular competition.

Decision No. 16,209

(March 25, 2011)

Wayne A. Vander Byl, Esq., attorney for respondent

STEINER, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals a determination of the Board of Education of the Lyons Central School District (“board”) regarding an extracurricular competition.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner’s daughter, C.O., was a senior in respondent’s high school during the 2009-2010 school year.  During the fall semester, as part of her Economics and Government class, C.O. participated in a stock market competition sponsored by the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper.  For the competition, two students were placed on each team and selected stocks for the team’s account.  The team with the most successful stock account over time would win the competition.  To illustrate the game for the students, the teacher used a demonstration account with stocks chosen by at least C.J.B., a student in the class.  C.J.B. and M.W. also comprised a team competing in the game with its own account.  Prior to the end of the competition, the demonstration account was outperforming the other accounts. At that point, the teacher chose to also submit the demonstration account on behalf of C.J.B.’s team.  The parties dispute whether his partner, M.W., had initially helped choose the stocks in the demonstration account.  That account ultimately won the competition and the team won a trip to the New York Stock Exchange during the 2010 spring semester.  C.O.’s team won third place in the competition. 

Petitioner protested the submission of the demonstration account in the competition, asserting it was improper for any team to have two accounts entered.  She met with the teacher, principal and superintendent on January 26, 2010 to request withdrawal of the winning team from the competition.  She also wanted the teacher to discuss the incident with the class.  The superintendent determined not to withdraw the winning team, but did require the teacher to discuss the incident with the class and give students an opportunity to participate in the contest again the following semester.  Petitioner also sought a meeting with the board.  On March 23, 2010, petitioner met with the board president and vice-president, the principal and superintendent.  A written memorandum was presented wherein the district concluded that no competition rules were violated.  The memorandum also stated that in the future students would not be permitted to maintain more than one account, that demonstration accounts would not be entered into the contest and that the emphasis would be on learning rather than winning.  However, the winning team was not withdrawn and this appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on April 20, 2010.

Petitioner contends that the teacher gave C.J.B. and M.W. an unfair advantage by improperly allowing their team to maintain two accounts in the competition.  She claims the students were given an advantage because they were members of an athletic team coached by the teacher.  Petitioner seeks an order directing withdrawal of C.J.B. and M.W. as the winning team from the contest, barring that team from receiving its prize and requiring that the other students in the class be notified of these actions. 

Respondent claims that petitioner lacks standing to maintain this appeal.  Respondent also contends that the appeal must be dismissed for failure to join the winning team members as respondents. 

I will first address respondent’s objection to the scope of petitioner’s 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 Caswell, 48 Ed Dept Rep 472, Decision No. 15,920; Appeal of Hinson, 48 id. 437, Decision No. 15,908; Appeal of Baez, 48 id. 418, Decision No 15,901).  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.

With respect to the issue of standing, an individual may not maintain an appeal pursuant to Education Law §310 unless aggrieved in the sense that he or she has suffered personal damage or injury to his or her civil, personal or property rights (Appeal of Waechter, 48 Ed Dept Rep 261, Decision No. 15,853; Appeal of Erickson, 47 id. 261, Decision No. 15,689).  Only persons who are directly affected by the action being appealed have standing to bring an appeal (Appeal of Waechter, 48 Ed Dept Rep 261, Decision No. 15,853; Appeal of Erickson, 47 id. 261, Decision No. 15,689).  Respondent asserts that C.O.’s class grade was not affected by the competition result, nor would her team win any prize if elevated to second place.  Nevertheless, C.O.’s final standing in the competition was affected by respondent’s refusal to disqualify the winning team.  Petitioner, therefore, has standing to maintain the appeal on C.O.’s behalf (seeAppeal of Chesbrough, 32 Ed Dept Rep 647, Decision No. 12,944).

However, 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 Murray, 48 Ed Dept Rep 517, Decision No. 15,934; Appeal of Miller, 48 id. 465, Decision No. 15,917; Appeal of Williams, 48 id. 343, Decision No. 15,879).  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 Murray, 48 Ed Dept Rep 517, Decision No. 15,934; Appeal of Miller, 48 id. 465, Decision No. 15,917; Appeal of Williams, 48 id. 343, Decision No. 15,879).

Petitioner did not serve a copy of the notice and petition on C.J.B. or M.W., nor did she name them as respondents.  Petitioner seeks withdrawal of their team from the competition, which would adversely affect these students.  Therefore, they are necessary parties to the appeal and petitioner’s failure to join them warrants dismissal.

The appeal also 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 a Student with a Disability, 48 Ed Dept Rep 532, Decision No. 15,940; Appeal of M.M., 48 id. 527, Decision No. 15,937; Appeal of Embro, 48 id. 204, Decision No. 15,836). Petitioner seeks as relief withdrawal of the winning team from the game, an order prohibiting them from accepting any prizes, and a directive that the other students in the class be informed.  As noted above, petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied.  Consequently, the trip to the Stock Exchange presumably occurred and the school year has ended.  Moreover, the teacher was required to discuss the matter with the class, and teams in future competitions will be limited to only one entered account.  Accordingly, no further meaningful relief is available and the matter is moot. 

In light of this disposition, I need not address petitioner’s remaining contentions. 

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE.