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Decision No. 13,560

Appeal of MARCIA E., on behalf of her son, from action of the Board of Education of the Sewanhaka Central High School District regarding student grading.

Decision No. 13,560

(March 7, 1996)

Douglas E. Libby, Esq., attorney for respondents

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges respondent's refusal to change her son's grades. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner is the mother of a fifteen year old student enrolled in respondent's high school. The student resides with his father and stepmother, who are residents of the district. On June 30, 1995, after receiving her son's ninth grade report card, petitioner contacted respondent's superintendent to ask about the district's grade appeal process. On July 6, 1995, petitioner faxed a letter to the superintendent appealing her son's grades. By letter dated July 7, 1995, respondent's attorney indicated that any appeal should be taken initially with the principal in writing.

Respondent's principal met with petitioner on July 14, 1995 and reviewed the student's report card, each marking period grade, final exam grades, regents grades and final grades, in addition to the teachers' grade books. She found no basis to change the student's grades. Petitioner then appealed the principal's determination to respondent's superintendent, who referred the matter to respondent's assistant superintendent for personnel and administration. The assistant superintendent subsequently directed respondent's director of pupil personnel services to investigate petitioner's allegations. By letter dated November 7, 1995, the superintendent notified petitioner that her son's grades would not be changed. This appeal ensued. Petitioner's request for interim relief was denied on December 14, 1995.

Because the student's grades were poor compared to his apparent ability, respondent recommended his evaluation by respondent's Committee on Special Education (CSE). Both petitioner and the student's father refused to consent to the evaluation. An impartial hearing was held over four days on September 22, October 5, 20 and 25, 1995. On November 25, 1995, the hearing officer found that the student should be evaluated. Petitioner appealed to the State Review Officer, who upheld the hearing officer's determination (No. 95-84).

Petitioner alleges that her son entered respondent's school at a ninth grade level and that respondent's teachers have lied and conspired to lower her son's grades. She requests that her son receive credit for all the courses he failed, that he be placed in 10th grade courses in math, biology and global studies and that he be placed in the 10th grade home room. She further requests that respondent cease its efforts to undermine and discriminate against her son. Respondent denies that any conspiracy exists to undermine petitioner's son and that the grades he received were the grades he earned.

Education Law '1709(3) gives boards of education broad power:

To prescribe the course of study by which the pupils of the schools shall be graded and classified, and to regulate the admission of pupils and their transfer from one class or department to another, as their scholarship shall warrant.

Decisions regarding student grading rest initially with the classroom teacher and ultimately with the board of education (Education Law '1709[3]). Barring a finding that a grade determination was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, it will not be set aside (Appeal of Burton, 33 Ed Dept Rep 211; Appeal of Hickey, 32 id. 12; Appeal of Kriaris, 31 id. 353). When a student challenges a final grade, he or she bears the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested (Appeal of Timbs, 29 Ed Dept Rep 392).

Petitioner contends that respondent and its staff has engaged in a conspiracy to undermine her son, and states that the reasons for this treatment are racially motivated because her son is an African American male. However, the record in this case indicates that respondent thoroughly investigated the matter of the student's grades at petitioner's request and found no basis to change them. Petitioner raises very serious allegations that she fails to prove, just as she fails to prove that her son's grades should be changed. In fact, the student's teachers were concerned that he was not achieving the grades he seemed capable of and offered to work with him to improve his grades or suggested extra help. The record also indicates that petitioner has made inappropriate and disrespectful remarks to respondent's staff, and I commend them for their professional treatment of petitioner and petitioner's son despite their difficulties with petitioner. Based on the record before me, there is simply no basis to grant the relief petitioner seeks.

I have reviewed the parties' remaining contentions and find them without merit.