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Decision No. 13,260

Appeal of MAUREEN SOMERVILLE, on behalf of her daughter, VIRGINIA, from action of the Board of Education of the Maine-Endwell Central School District regarding disciplinary action against a teacher.

Decision No. 13,260

(September 16, 1994)

Hogan & Sarzynski, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, John B. Hogan, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals respondent board of education's refusal to bring disciplinary action against a teacher. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner's daughter is an eleventh grade student at respondent's high school. Her teacher in U.S. History is Stewart Key. During the 1993-94 school year, Virginia was shown two "R" rated movies in history class. Petitioner alleges that the movies portrayed violence, nudity and extreme profanity and that her daughter was allowed to view them without parental consent. Petitioner also alleges that Mr. Key used vulgar language in petitioner's presence. Based on these and other incidents, petitioner submitted proposed charges against Mr. Key under Education Law '3020-a to respondent dated March 16, 1994. Respondent met in executive session on March 28, 1994 to consider the charges. Respondent subsequently voted unanimously that probable cause did not exist to support the charges. Consequently, no disciplinary action was commenced, and this appeal ensued.

Petitioner seeks a determination that respondent acted improperly in voting that probable cause did not exist to warrant charges against Mr. Key. She claims that her parental rights have been violated and asks that the teacher be reprimanded. Respondent contends that it acted reasonably in concluding that sufficient cause did not exist for preferring charges against the teacher and that the movies petitioner objects to are relevant and appropriate in an eleventh grade U.S. History class.

A board of education has broad discretion in determining whether disciplinary action against a teacher is warranted (Appeal of Anderson, 33 Ed Dept Rep 322; Appeal of Allert, 32 id. 538; Appeal of Mitzner, 32 id. 15; Appeal of Magee, 30 id. 479). However, there must be a reasonable basis for concluding that disciplinary action is unwarranted (Appeal of Mitzner, supra; Appeal of Kantor, 31 Ed Dept Rep 319). Respondent reviewed Mr. Key's actions and concluded that the movies in question presented issues relevant not only to U.S. History, but current racial problems. Respondent also reviewed the teacher's use of inappropriate language and felt that it did not warrant a proceeding under Education Law '3020-a.

Based upon careful review of the record before me, I conclude that respondent's determination not to bring disciplinary action was reasonable. However, I direct that respondent counsel Mr. Key regarding the use of inappropriate language in the classroom.

I have reviewed petitioner's other contentions and find them without merit.