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Decision No. 17,401

Appeal of C.J. and his parent T.S., from action of the Niskayuna Central School District, Rosemarie Perez as President of the Board of Education, Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. as Superintendent, Larry Gilooley as Director of Physical Education Athletics & Health, Mark Treanor, Director of Student/Staff Support Services, and “John Doe” representing all faculty, staff, coaches and other agents or employees of the Niskayuna Central School District regarding student discipline.

Decision No. 17,401

(June 4, 2018)

Mann Law Firm P.C., attorneys for petitioners, Matthew J. Mann, Esq., of counsel

Law Offices of Guercio & Guercio LLP, attorneys for respondents, Kathy A. Ahearn, Esq., of counsel

ELIA, Commissioner.--Petitioners C.J. and T.S. appeal the action of the Niskayuna Central School District (the “district”), Rosemarie Perez as President of the Board of Education, Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. as Superintendent, Larry Gilooley as Director of Physical Education Athletics & Health (“respondent Gilooley”), Mark Treanor as Director of Student/Staff Support Services, and “John Doe” representing all faculty, staff, coaches and other agents or employees of the Niskayuna Central School District (collectively, “respondents”) to impose an athletic suspension upon T.S.’s son, C.J. (“the student”).[1]  The appeal must be dismissed.

The student was a senior in respondent’s high school during the 2016-2017 school year.  In a letter to T.S. dated October 21, 2016, respondent Gilooley, the Athletic Director, found that the student violated the district’s athletic training policy and imposed a suspension of: (1) athletic probation for one calendar year; and (2) a suspension from 25 percent of all team games during spring 2017.

In a letter to T.S. dated October 31, 2016, the principal of respondent’s high school indicated that the October 21, 2016 letter was “not accurate” and was considered expunged from the district’s records.  The principal further indicated that he and petitioner T.S. had “mutually agreed” that the student would “receive an athletic training violation which equates to a 25 [percent] forfeiture of the next athletic season in which he participates” (the “athletic suspension”).  Pursuant to respondent’s policy, petitioner appealed the principal’s determination to the district’s athletic committee.

In a written decision dated January 11, 2017, the athletic committee upheld the athletic suspension.  While the athletic committee acknowledged that the October 21, 2016 letter was inaccurate insofar as it stated that the student spoke with respondent Gilooley and not the principal, the athletic committee found that high school administrators thoroughly investigated the incident; that the student was allowed to present his side of the story to the individual authorized to impose discipline; and that the penalty was consistent with the district’s code of conduct.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioners’ request for interim relief was denied on March 17, 2017.

Petitioners object to the process by which respondents investigated the incident giving rise to the athletic suspension.  Petitioners also allege that respondents failed to offer adequate due process protections throughout the investigatory and adjudicatory process.  Petitioners additionally argue that respondents failed to follow their own policies.  Petitioners seek expungement of the athletic suspension from the student’s record.

Respondents assert that they followed all appropriate procedures in investigating the incident and imposing the athletic suspension, and that any errors committed in connection therewith were de minimis and irrelevant to the outcome of the investigation.  Respondents also contend, inter alia, that the student’s athletic suspension is “confidential information that will not be shared with any colleges to which [the student] applies” and “does not appear on his student transcript.”

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 Sutton, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,331; Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 48 id. 532, Decision No. 15,940; Appeal of M.M., 48 id. 527, Decision No. 15,937).  The student served the athletic suspension during the spring of 2017.  Thus, any claim regarding the appropriateness of the penalty is moot (see e.g. Appeal of Kainz, 38 Ed Dept Rep 339, Decision No. 14,049).

Petitioners’ request for expungement of the suspension from the student’s record must also be dismissed as moot.  In response to an inquiry from my Office of Counsel, counsel for respondents stated in an affidavit dated April 16, 2018 that the student graduated in June 2017 shortly after this appeal was initiated, and that the district’s policy is to shred all student disciplinary records once a student graduates.  Accordingly, the school district’s attorney attests that the district “does not maintain any record of the suspension at issue in this appeal in the [s]tudent’s permanent educational 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, pet. to review dismissed sub nom., Binder, et al. v. Cold Spring Harbor Central School District, Albany Co., [McGrath, J.], Jan. 14, 2011).[2]

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

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE

 

[1] The petition indicates that petitioner C.J. was a senior attending respondent’s high school when this appeal was brought but is silent as to the student’s age.  Respondents have not objected to C.J.’s legal competence to bring this appeal based on his age.  Therefore, for purposes of this appeal, I will presume that C.J. was over 18 when the appeal was commenced.

 

[2] Although I note that multiple individuals in addition to the district have been named in the caption, petitioners seek no relief against them.