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Decision No. 13,036

Appeal of NANCY BARTLETT, on behalf of her son Corey, from action of the Board of Education of the Mexico Central School District and the Board of Cooperative Educational Services of Oswego County regarding student discipline.

Decision No. 13,036

(November 2, 1993)

Mowry & Mowry, Esqs., attorneys for respondent Board of Education of the Mexico Central School District, John Michael Mowry, Esq., of counsel

Grossman, Kinney, Dwyer, Reitz & Harrigan P.C., attorneys for respondent Board of Cooperative Educational Services of Oswego County, Marc H. Reitz, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals from a decision of the Board of Education of the Mexico Central School District (respondent board) and the Board of Cooperative Educational Services of Oswego County (respondent BOCES) disciplining petitioner's son. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner's son is a student at Mexico High School. As part of his academic program, he attends a residential electrical wiring class at the occupational education division of respondent BOCES. On May 27, 1993 the Mexico High School was closed, but BOCES remained open to students from other component districts. Petitioner's son and another student elected to attend the BOCES class on that day to do makeup work in the laboratory on projects that were overdue.

Petitioner's son arrived for class wearing shorts. The class instructor advised Corey of BOCES' policy that while students in the wiring class may wear shorts to class during the classroom portion of the program, long pants are required for safety reasons when work is performed in the laboratory or at a job site. Students have lockers in the classroom area and may keep long pants in their lockers, enabling them to wear shorts to and from school. In addition, extra long pants are kept in the principal's office for student use.

The classroom instructor further advised petitioner's son to either go home and change or go to the principal's office to obtain a pair of long pants. Corey refused both options. The instructor then asked Corey to return to the classroom for a private discussion. Corey also refused that request. The BOCES principal was asked to intervene, and he also requested Corey to either go home and change or get a pair of pants from the principal's office. At this point, another student suggested to Corey that he leave the building since he was not required to be present that day. As Corey was leaving, he directed several obscenities toward the principal.

The BOCES principal suspended Corey for five days. After reviewing the incident with the principal at Mexico High School, the BOCES principal reduced the suspension from five days to four days. The principal of the Mexico High School also informed Corey that he was to receive a one day out-of-school suspension and a three day in-school suspension at the high school. This appeal ensued.

Petitioner maintains that BOCES does not have a safety dress code that prohibits the wearing of shorts in the electrical laboratory. She further maintains that other students have been allowed to attend class in shorts and that BOCES employees are harassing her son. The record, however, shows that BOCES has a long standing safety policy of requiring students to wear long pants while working in the electricity laboratory area of the classroom. The policy was explained to petitioner's son. The record also indicates that while on one occasion a student was allowed to wear shorts in the classroom because of exceptional circumstances, the rule that no student is allowed to work on a project in the laboratory area of the classroom unless the student is wearing long pants has generally been followed. Other than her mere assertion that her son is being harassed by BOCES personnel, petitioner offers no proof that this is, in fact, what took place.

Petitioner also contends that the BOCES principal suspended her son from the Mexico High School and that he had no authority to do so. However, the record clearly shows that the BOCES principal merely suspended Corey from BOCES classes. The suspension from classes at the high school was imposed by the high school principal.

Finally, petitioner contends that the principal of the high school was without authority to impose a disciplinary penalty for actions that occurred at BOCES. I find petitioner's contention without merit. Disciplinary action may be imposed against a student for actions that occurred away from school, even if unrelated to any school activity (see Matter of Pollnow, 22 Ed Dept Rep 547). In the instant matter, the student conduct occurred at a BOCES education program that petitioner's son was attending pursuant to a contract between the school district and BOCES. Upon successful completion of that program, petitioner's son is awarded academic credit by respondent board. It follows that a board of education may impose disciplinary sanctions for improper conduct exhibited at BOCES programs sponsored by the board. In addition, petitioner offers no legal basis to support her contention that respondent board may not discipline her son because BOCES has imposed its own punishment.