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Decision No. 17,466

Appeal of BRIDGET HAINA, on behalf of her daughter ISABELLA, from action of the Board of Education of the Beekmantown Central School District regarding residency.

Decision No. 17,466

(July 31, 2018)

Stafford Owens Piller Murnane Kelleher & Trombley, PLLC, attorneys for respondent, Meghan E. Zedick, Esq., of counsel

ELIA, Commmissioner.--Petitioner appeals from the determination of the Board of Education of the Beekmantown Central School District (“respondent”) that her daughter, Isabella (the “student”), is not a district resident.  The appeal must be dismissed.

The record indicates that in 2015, petitioner and the student lived at an address located within respondent’s geographical boundaries (the “in-district address”).  Petitioner registered the student in respondent’s district using that address, and she began attending respondent’s schools in September 2015.

According to the record, petitioner purchased a residence located outside of respondent’s geographical boundaries (the “out-of-district address”) in February 2018.

In an email to petitioner dated May 4, 2018, respondent’s registrar notified petitioner that it possessed information that petitioner and the student resided at the out-of-district address.  The letter stated that petitioner was entitled to submit proof of residency to the registrar’s office within ten days.  The letter also indicated that if petitioner was unable to provide documentation proving residency within respondent’s district, the student would be disenrolled “as of Monday, May 14, 2018.”  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was granted on May 21, 2018.

Petitioner admits that she lives at the out-of-district address and states that she “was unaware that the school district needed to be notified with the change in address so close to the end of the year” and that she “assumed the registration would be for the entirety of the year.”  Petitioner further contends that respondent’s registration policies “do not list a requirement to notify of [a] change in address during the active term.”  Petitioner seeks a determination that the student is a resident of respondent’s district “for the remaining [portion of the] 2017-2018 school year.”

Respondent argues that the appeal must be dismissed because petitioner admits that she resides at the out-of-district address and has failed to demonstrate a clear legal right to the requested relief.

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).  Here, the sole relief sought by petitioner is that the student be allowed to attend respondent’s schools “for the remaining [portion of the] 2017-2018 school year.”  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was granted on May 21, 2018 and the 2017-2018 school year ended shortly thereafter.  Therefore, since the student remained enrolled for the entire 2017-2018 school year and that school year has ended, petitioner’s claim relating to such school year is moot.

Even if the appeal were not subject to dismissal as moot, it would be dismissed on the merits.  Education Law §3202(1) provides, in pertinent part:

A person over five and under twenty-one years of age who has not received a high school diploma is entitled to attend the public schools maintained in the district in which such person resides without the payment of tuition.

The purpose of this statute is to limit the obligation of school districts to provide tuition-free education to students whose parents or legal guardians reside within the district (Appeal of Powell, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,320; Appeal of Polynice, 48 id. 490, Decision No. 15,927).  “Residence” for purposes of Education Law §3202 is established by one’s physical presence as an inhabitant within the district and intent to reside in the district (Longwood Cent. School Dist. v. Springs Union Free School Dist., 1 NY3d 385; Appeal of Powell, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,320).  A child's residence is presumed to be that of his or her parents or legal guardians (Catlin v. Sobol, 155 AD2d 24, revd on other grounds, 77 NY2d 552 (1991); Appeal of Powell, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,320).

A residency determination will not be set aside unless it is arbitrary and capricious (Appeal of Powell, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,320; Appeal of White, 48 id. 295, Decision No. 15,863).  In an appeal to the Commissioner, the petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested and the burden of establishing the facts upon which petitioner seeks relief (Appeal of Powell, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,320; Appeal of White, 48 id. 295, Decision No. 15,863).

As noted above, petitioner admits that she and the student reside at the out-of-district address.  Petitioner does not allege that she is temporarily absent from, or intends to return to, respondent’s district.  In light of petitioner’s admission, respondent’s determination that the student is not a district resident was not arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable (see Appeal of Rubio, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,279).

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE