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Decision No. 17,363

Appeal of CAROL STACHELEK, on behalf of her son DANIEL, from action of Section IX of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association regarding participation in interscholastic athletics.

Decision No. 17,363

(March 28, 2018)

Renee L. James, Esq., attorney for respondent

ELIA, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the determination of Section IX of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (“Section IX” or “respondent”) that her son, Daniel (“the student”), was ineligible for a waiver of Rule 30 (the “transfer rule”) of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (“NYSPHSAA”) and, as such, was ineligible to participate in interscholastic wrestling for the 2015-2016 school year.  The appeal must be dismissed.

During the 2015-2016 school year, the student was a senior at John S. Burke Catholic High School (“Burke”).  Prior to June 30, 2015, the student attended George F. Baker High School in the Tuxedo Union Free School District and participated in interscholastic wrestling during the 2014-2015 season.  According to the record, the student transferred to Burke for the 2015-2016 school year and continued to reside in the Tuxedo Union Free School District.

Respondent is a section of NYSPHSAA, a voluntary association of public and non-public schools organized to provide a central organization through which students may compete in interscholastic athletics.  In addition to the provisions of Commissioner’s regulation §135.4, which govern interscholastic athletic competition, NYSPHSAA’s member schools are governed by NYSPHSAA’s Bylaws and Eligibility Standards.  One of the bylaws, known as the “transfer rule,” provides that a student who transfers schools, without a corresponding change in residence of his/her parents, is ineligible to participate in any interscholastic contest in a particular sport for one year, if that student participated in that sport in the year immediately preceding the transfer (NYSPHSAA Bylaw and Eligibility Standard Rule 30).  The transfer rule includes provisions whereby member schools may apply to respondent for a waiver of the rule on behalf of a student based on undue hardship, if certain conditions are met.  A hardship waiver may be granted if it can be shown that the reason for the student’s transfer was the result of financial hardship or was related to matters of health and safety.

The record indicates that, on or about November 3, 2015, Burke sought a waiver of the transfer rule, on behalf of the student, to permit his participation in interscholastic wresting for the 2015-2016 season.  The waiver request form stated that the student transferred from George F. Baker High School to Burke for health and safety reasons.  On or about November 24, 2015, respondent denied the waiver request.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief permitting the student to participate on Burke’s interscholastic wrestling team was denied on December 17, 2015.

Petitioner contends that the student transferred from George F. Baker High School based on an “undue hardship” that resulted from the Tuxedo school district’s re-organization which dramatically reduced the number of students in its high school and eliminated its wrestling team and because of health and safety reasons.  Specifically, petitioner asserts that, if her son continued to attend George F. Baker High School, he would be subjected to “mental duress” from the remaining students who, she claims, “had a history of bullying [her son].”  Petitioner asserts that respondent’s denial of the waiver of the transfer rule was arbitrary and capricious because the circumstances which led to the student’s transfer were outside of his control and that he was facing an undue hardship.  As relief, petitioner seeks an order permitting the student to participate in interscholastic wrestling during the 2015-2016 school year, his senior year of high school. 

Respondent asserts that the appeal must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, for failure to join a necessary party, and as moot.

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).

As the sole relief requested, petitioner seeks a waiver of the athletic transfer rule to permit the student to participate on Burke’s interscholastic wrestling team during the 2015-2016 school year.  Such relief, if granted, would necessarily affect Burke, which did not appeal from the denial of its waiver request, as it would require Burke to permit the student to participate on its wrestling team.  Therefore, Burke is a necessary party and must be joined as a respondent.  Because petitioner seeks an order which requires Burke to permit the student to participate on its interscholastic wrestling team, the appeal must be dismissed for failure to join Burke as a necessary party.

Furthermore, 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 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).  As noted, petitioner’s sole request for relief was limited to the student’s participation in interscholastic wrestling during the 2015-2016 season.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief, seeking the same remedy, was denied on December 17, 2015 and the wrestling season has concluded.  Accordingly, there is no further relief that can be awarded, and the matter is moot.

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

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE