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Decision No. 12,984

Appeal of HERMAN W. AUCH, on behalf of his son IAN, from action of the Board of Education of the Wayne Central School District regarding student discipline.

Decision No. 12,984

(August 11, 1993)

Wayne A. Vander Byl, Esq., attorney for respondent

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner seeks an order annulling nine detentions imposed against his son. The appeal must be dismissed.

On April 6, 1993, petitioner's son, then a senior at respondent's high school, missed school because he went skiing with friends. Petitioner knew of his son's absence from school and, in fact, planned to go skiing with his son, but was detained at work. By absenting himself from school on April 6th, petitioner's son missed three classes. Upon learning that petitioner's son had skipped school to go skiing, the high school principal assigned the student three detentions for each of the three classes he had missed -- the penalty prescribed by the discipline code set forth in respondent's student handbook. Petitioner appealed that decision, and on April 7th respondent board rejected petitioner's appeal. Petitioner commenced this appeal on May 3, 1993, asking that I overturn the detentions. Subsequently, respondent elected to waive enforcement of the detentions.

The Commissioner of Education will decide only matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision upon a state of facts which no longer exists, or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of Becker and Hargett, 29 Ed Dept Rep 419; Appeal of Vachon, 28 id. 276; Matter of Rondot, 27 id. 143). In light of the fact that respondent has elected not to enforce the detentions and that petitioner's son has graduated, the matter is academic and must be dismissed.

Even if the appeal were not moot, I would dismiss it on the merits. Petitioner contends that respondent may not discipline Ian for being absent from school since he, as Ian's father, consented to his son's absence on April 6th. Petitioner's contention is rejected. Pursuant to Education Law '1709(2), a board of education is authorized to establish rules concerning the order and discipline of the schools as it may deem necessary. Such rules are not subject to the consent of a parent. While a board of education has the authority to establish a disciplinary policy concerning absenteeism, there must be a reasonable relationship between the absenteeism or other misconduct and the sanction imposed (Matter of Caskey, et al., 21 Ed Dept Rep 138). Petitioner offers no legal basis to overturn respondent's disciplinary policy of imposing detentions for cutting classes.

Petitioner also contends that the disciplining of students for an absence with parental permission is improper because respondent has no written policy and never informed parents or students of its practice on this issue. The record indicates, however, that respondent's policy is set forth in its student handbook. In addition, respondent on several occasions informed students and parents of this policy at meetings and through its newsletter.