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Decision No. 13,056

Appeal of BRUCE L. KONKOSKI, on behalf of his daughter, LINDA I. KONKOSKI, from action of the Board of Education of the Norwood-Norfolk Central School District regarding class rank.

Decision No. 13,056

(November 24, 1993)

Arthur F. Grisham, Esq., attorney for respondent

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals respondent's decision to name co-salutatorians for its 1993 senior class. The appeal must be dismissed.

Respondent's written policy provides that, to be eligible for the valedictorian or salutatorian of a class, a student must "take at least four courses each semester in high school from among the following: Mathematics, Science, English, Social Studies, Foreign Languages, Occupational Education." On or about April 26, 1993, respondent publicly announced that petitioner's daughter was class salutatorian for the 1993 senior class. Subsequently, respondent determined that during her senior year petitioner's daughter did not take at least four courses per semester from among the courses specified. While petitioner's daughter had assumed a full course load during her senior year, only three of the courses fulfilled respondent's requirements. On June 10, 1993, respondent named petitioner's daughter and the senior who ranked third in the class as co-salutatorians.

Petitioner does not dispute that his daughter did not fulfill respondent's policy or that the third ranked senior met the policy requirements. However, he contends that the policy is invalid because it discriminated against accelerated students. Moreover, he contends that in the past, other students who did not meet the board's requirements have been named class valedictorian or salutatorian.

Designation as valedictorian or salutatorian of a class is a local award for which reasonable standards may be imposed by a board of education (Appeal of Maloney, 33 Ed Dept Rep , Decision No. 13007, dated September 14, 1993; Appeal of Kuttner, 32 id. 39; Appeal of Boutros, 27 id. 209). There is nothing unreasonable or educationally unsound in requiring students to be enrolled in four core subjects every semester. The intent of respondent's policy is to promote the valid and desirable goal of having students take a maximum number of academic courses.

Nor is respondent's policy invalid because it somehow discriminates against accelerated students. In the first instance, the record does not establish that petitioner's daughter is an accelerated student. Assuming that she is, however, there is no evidence that respondent's policy discriminates against students who pursue accelerated studies. The requirements of the policy apply equally to and can be met by any class of students. The fact that students who take accelerated classes may carry a heavier academic burden than students who do not, does not by itself make a case for discrimination when those students compete with each other for class honors.

Respondent denies petitioner's assertion that prior unnamed students, who did not meet the board's requirements, have been named valedictorian or salutatorian. Because there is no evidence before me to support that assertion, petitioner has failed to sustain his burden of proof on this issue (8 NYCRR 275.10; Appeal of Pickreign, 28 Ed Dept Rep 163).

Finally, petitioner offers new allegations and exhibits in his reply. The purpose of a reply is to respond to procedural defenses or new material contained in an answer (8 NYCRR 275.3). A reply is not meant to buttress allegations contained in the petition or add assertions or exhibits that should have been in the petition (Appeal of Taber, et al., 32 Ed Dept Rep 346; Appeal of Mermelstein, et al., 30 id. 119). Accordingly, I have not considered the new allegations and exhibits included in petitioner's reply.