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Decision No. 17,392

Appeal of R.B., on behalf of his grandson T.B., from action of the Board of Education of the Wayland-Cohocton Central School District regarding student discipline.

Decision No. 17,392

(May 17, 2018)

Law Offices of Gialleonardo, Gizzo & Rayhill, attorneys for petitioner, Shannon R. Becker, Esq., of counsel

Osborn, Reed & Burke, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Jennifer M. Schwartzott, Esq., of counsel

ELIA, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the decision of the Board of Education of the Wayland-Cohocton Central School District to impose discipline on his grandson, T.B. (“the student”).  The appeal must be dismissed.

At all times relevant to this appeal, the student attended respondent’s high school.  According to the record, the student was involved in an incident with a law enforcement officer on May 16, 2014.  The record further reflects that the student was issued an appearance ticket on that date, although petitioner asserts that the student was not given the appearance ticket on the night of the incident.  At the time, the student did not report the receipt of an appearance ticket to a coach/advisor, respondent’s athletic director, or respondent’s dean of students.  The district’s Parent/Student Athletic Handbook (“handbook”) includes a “Grades 5-12 Extra-Curricular Activities Eligibility Poilicy” (“athletic policy”) which provides, in pertinent part:

[A]ny student who ... receives an appearance ticket from a law enforcement officer must report that incident immediately to his/her coach/advisor or the Athletic Director/Dean of Students.  Failure to do so will constitute a violation of this policy.

According to the record, the student had previously signed a form on February 28, 2014, indicating that he understood the rules outlined in the handbook as well as their consequences. 

Sometime after May 16, respondent became aware that an appearance ticket had been issued to the student.  Respondent’s superintendent contacted the Town Justice who confirmed that the student had been issued an appearance ticket on May 16 and was charged with a violation of the Penal Law.

On June 16, 2014, counsel for petitioner contacted the superintendent and informed him of the student’s court appearance date scheduled for July 10, 2014.  On the same day, respondent’s athletic director notified the student that his failure to report the appearance ticket to him violated the athletic policy and imposed a 10-week athletic suspension.

Petitioner and his wife appealed the athletic director’s determination, in accordance with the procedure set forth in the handbook.  On June 27, 2014, petitioner and his wife met with the principal to discuss the suspension.  The principal upheld the student’s suspension.  Petitioner and his wife then appealed to the superintendent, who upheld the suspension.  Finally, petitioner and his wife appealed to respondent, which denied their appeal on July 29, 2014.  This appeal ensued and petitioner’s request for interim relief was granted.

Petitioner contends that the student did not receive an appearance ticket on May 16, nor was he told that one had been issued.  Petitioner assets that he became aware of the issuance of the ticket when he received a letter informing him of the date of the student’s court appearance.  Petitioner claims, therefore, that the student did not violate respondent’s athletic policy.  Petitioner further contends that the 10-week athletic suspension is excessive.  As relief, petitioner requests “a determination that the suspension should be vacated” and “a determination that the suspension is arbitrary, capricious and unduly harsh.”

Respondent argues that it was justified in imposing an athletic suspension because the student was issued an appearance ticket but failed to report it, thus violating the terms of the athletic policy.  Respondent disputes the credibility of the student’s claim that he did not receive the appearance ticket on May 16, 2014.  Respondent further contends that, according to its handbook, a 10-week athletic suspension is mandatory for a student athlete’s first violation of the athletic policy and that such penalty is not excessive.

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 above, petitioner’s request for interim relief was granted, staying the implementation of the athletic suspension.  In response to a request from my Office of Counsel, pursuant to §276.5 of the Commissioner’s regulations, the parties indicate that the student subsequently graduated.  I note that, as relief, petitioner only sought an order vacating the suspension and did not request expungement of any reference to the incident from the student’s record.  Therefore, no further meaningful relief can be granted and the appeal must be dismissed as moot (Appeal of S.V., 55 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,829; Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 53 id., Decision No. 16,561; Appeal of H.B., 49 id. 433, Decision No. 16,073, aff’d, Index No. 6819-10, Sup. Ct., Albany Co., [McGrath, J.], Jan. 14, 2011).[1] 

In any event, I also note that a letter submitted by counsel for respondent indicates that the student’s record contains no reference to the suspension at issue in this appeal.  Although petitioner asserts that he did not receive “documentation” from respondent confirming such expungement, he does not contest respondent’s assertion that the student’s record, in fact, contains no reference to the athletic suspension.  I note that the student’s records may be subject to examination pursuant to the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (20 USC §1232g; 34 CFR Part 99).

In light of the above disposition, I need not address the parties’ remaining contentions.[2]

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE

 

[1] In an affirmation by his attorney dated January 5, 2018, petitioner asserts that the appeal is not moot because respondent “continues to enforce the athletic policy in [the] very same arbitrary and capricious manner.”  However, petitioner did not include such a claim in his petition, may not now raise it and, in any event, lacks standing to assert the rights of others, including the rights of students other than those over whom he exercises guardianship (Appeal of E.F., 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,186; Appeal of McCarthy, et al., 54 id., Decision No. 16,631; Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 48 id. 411, Decision No. 15,899).

 

[2] I also need not address the parties’ multiple additional submissions and objections thereto, given the above disposition.