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Decision No. 12,753

Appeal of FRED KELLER, on behalf of his wards, Takahiro H. and Orlando C., from action of the Board of Education of the Franklinville Central School District relating to classroom monitoring.

Decision No. 12,753

(July 17, 1992)

Moriarity & Swanz, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Donald J. Swanz, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner, the guardian of two exchange students, appeals from respondent's denial of his request to observe the teacher in her classroom. The appeal must be dismissed.

On December 19, 1991, petitioner met with the high school principal and a math teacher, about whom the two exchange students had complained. At the meeting, petitioner conveyed concerns that the teacher reportedly threw the papers to students rather than returning them and spent the last part of class doing her work rather than teaching. The teacher denied petitioner's allegations.

Dissatisfied with the teacher's assurances, petitioner requested permission to monitor the class. The teacher refused, claiming that the union contract forbade it. The principal denied petitioner's request on grounds that it would be disruptive and that it was not a parent's right or responsibility to evaluate teachers. On January 10, 1992, petitioner met with the superintendent. Expressing his concern about the potential for disruption and citing board policy based on the collective bargaining agreement which authorizes the administration alone to conduct classroom observations, the superintendent upheld the principal's decision. On January 30, 1992, the Board of Education of the Franklinville Central School District (the respondent) affirmed the superintendent's decision. Petitioner commenced this appeal on February 3, 1992.

Education Law '1709(2) grants boards of education authority "to establish such rules and regulations concerning the order and discipline of the schools ... as they may deem necessary to secure the best educational results." In furtherance thereof, respondent's Board Policy 20, "Maintenance of Public Order", prohibits anyone from entering or remaining in any classroom without permission. Respondent's Board Policy 50.14, provided for in the collective bargaining agreement, requires that "Observations of Teachers" be conducted by administrative officials.

Respondent denied petitioner permission to visit the math teacher's classroom under Policy 20 only after inquiring into the circumstances of his complaint and affording him an opportunity to discuss his concerns with the administration and the teacher involved. After meeting with petitioner, the superintendent concluded that allowing him to monitor the class would accomplish nothing constructive and, "under current. . . strains in teacher-parent relationships, could prove to be disruptive and hinder the ... purpose of providing an educational setting conducive to learning and a safe and orderly atmosphere for all parties concerned." Citing his "authority and responsibility ... to maintain public order within the operation of our programs and within the boundaries of school district property," the superintendent conveyed to petitioner by letter dated January 21, 1992, his decision that petitioner's "presence in the classroom would not enhance the educational process but disrupt it." Although the record does not conclusively establish that petitioner would have disrupted the classroom, since the superintendent had sufficient independent policy grounds for his decision, I find that it was within the board's discretion to refuse petitioner's request to observe the teacher in the classroom.

In appeals to the Commissioner, the petitioner bears the burden to establish a clear legal right to the relief requested (Appeal of Veterans Transportation Co., Inc., 26 Ed Dept Rep 163; Matter of Rich, 22 id. 433; Matter of Zimmer, 20 id. 657). Since the record indicates that the administration gave petitioner other opportunities to share his concerns with the teacher, and petitioner fails to establish that his rights or the rights of his wards were violated because respondent denied him an opportunity to monitor the teacher in the classroom, the petition must be dismissed.