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Decision No. 17,485

Appeal of N.P., on behalf of her daughter J.P., from action of the Board of Education of the Mamaroneck Union Free School District regarding residency and transportation.

Decision No. 17,485

(August 14, 2018)

Ingerman Smith LLP, attorneys for respondent, Emily J. Lucas, Esq., of counsel

ELIA, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the determination of the Board of Education of the Mamaroneck Union Free School District (“respondent”) that her child (the “student”), is not homeless within the meaning of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 USC §11431 et seq., “McKinney-Vento”) and, therefore, is not entitled to attend its schools or receive transportation.  The appeal must be dismissed. 

According to petitioner, she and the student have lived in a house, owned by petitioner’s boyfriend, located within the district (“in-district address”) since the 2015-2016 school year.  In an affidavit submitted with this appeal, respondent’s assistant superintendent for business and operations (“assistant superintendent”), states that in March 2018, “the [d]istrict became aware that the [s]student may not be residing within the [d]istrict’s boundaries” and requested that the district’s residency investigator (“investigator”) commence an investigation.  In her affidavit, the assistant superintendent states that the investigator ran an “Address History Search” and conducted a Department of Motor Vehicles search which indicated that petitioner and the student’s father lived at, and had their vehicles registered to, an address in the Bronx, New York (“out-of-district address”).[1] 

Surveillance was conducted at the in-district address on Saturday, March 17, 2018.  The investigation field report (“report”) for this date indicates that the investigator “found no one residing at this location” and that a “For Sale” sign was posted in front of the property.  The report also indicates that the investigator contacted  the listing agent who reported that the property was owned by petitioner’s boyfriend, who the listing agent believed lived in Rockland County, that the property was vacant and that it had been “winterized”.

Surveillance was also conducted at the out-of-district address on one afternoon and four week day mornings in March and April 2018.  The report of surveillance conducted on March 15, 2018 indicates that the out-of-district address is a “multi-family attached dwelling” with three mailboxes, one which included petitioner’s last name.  On three of the four week day mornings,[2] the investigator observed petitioner and the student leave the out-of-district residence and enter a vehicle registered to petitioner or the student’s father, and “drive [out] of the area.” 

Petitioner asserts that she and the student are homeless because they are “sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship or a similar reason.”  The petition indicates that they are “temporarily displaced due to no heat or hot water” and that the student “is temporarily staying in basement in the Bronx until repairs in mamaroneck [sic] residence are fixed due to pipes bursting in home.”  As relief, petitioner requests that the student be permitted to attend the schools of respondent’s district until the end of the 2017-2018 school year. 

Respondent argues that the appeal must be dismissed because the petition fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.  Respondent contends that petitioner has failed to meet her burden of proof to establish that the student is a homeless child within the meaning of Education Law §3209.  Respondent also contends that the student was properly excluded from attending the district’s schools and that its determination was not arbitrary or capricious.

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).  Although petitioner challenges respondent’s determination that her daughter is not homeless, as specific relief, petitioner requests only that the student be allowed to remain in respondent’s middle school “for the remainder of the school year.” Since the dispute over the student’s homelessness arose after October 1, 2016, the student was entitled to immediate enrollment in respondent’s district and to remain enrolled pending final resolution of any appeals (42 USC §11432[g][3][E]).  There is no evidence in the record that the student was improperly excluded from respondent’s schools during the pendency of this appeal through the remainder of the 2017-2018 school year.  As the 2017-2018 school year has ended, petitioner has obtained the specific relief sought in this appeal.  The matter is, therefore, moot, warranting dismissal of the appeal (see Appeal of J.S., 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,134).

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

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE

 

[1] The investigator’s address history search indicated that petitioner’s boyfriend lived at an address in Yonkers, New York. 

 

[2] On one week day morning, two females, one of whom was “possibly” the student, left the out-of-district address in a car registered to petitioner’s sister at the in-district address.