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Decision No. 13,656

Appeal of FONTINA and JOSEPH QUINTO, on behalf of their son, JOSEPH LOUIS QUINTO, JR., from action of the Board of Education of the Oceanside Union Free School District regarding attendance zones.

Decision No. 13,656

(August 26, 1996)

Ehrlich, Frazer & Feldman, attorneys for respondent, James H. Pyun, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioners challenge a change in the elementary school assignment of their son, Joseph, by the Board of Education of the Oceanside Union Free School District ("respondent"). The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioners reside at 165 Soper Street within respondent's school district. Petitioners contend that when they purchased their home in 1988, Mrs. Quinto was pregnant and they were specifically looking for a house in the School #8 attendance area. The real estate listing for the Soper Street house indicated that it was in an optional area, i.e., that the residents could send their children to either School #2 or School #8. In January 1993, petitioners registered Joseph for kindergarten at School #8, where he has since attended. In 1995, Mrs. Quinto's sister and her family moved in with petitioners. When Mrs. Quinto's sister attempted to register petitioners' nephew for first grade in School #8, the principal notified petitioners that their residence is not within the School #8 zone, but rather that their "home school" is School #2. By letter dated January 26, 1996, respondent's superintendent notified petitioners that beginning in September 1996 Joseph would have to attend School #2. This appeal ensued. Petitioners ask that I determine that Oceanside School #8 is Joseph's home school and that he be allowed to attend there tuition-free.

Respondent maintains that petitioners' residence was in the School #2 attendance zone when Joseph was first registered in 1993, and has been since that time. It claims that it erroneously allowed Joseph to register for and attend School #8, and that it did not discover the error until petitioners' nephew also attempted to register at School #8. Respondent alleges that when the error was detected, it allowed Joseph to remain at School #8 until its redistricting plan was completed to avoid the possibility of multiple reassignments. Respondent contends that the assignment of pupils to schools is within the board's discretion and that Joseph's assignment to School #2 is consistent with the current zoning.

The appeal must be dismissed. Pupil placement is a matter of educational policy, which lies within the professional judgment and discretion of those charged with the administration of the public schools (Matter of Britt v. Rogers, 108 AD2d 855, 485 NYS2d 358, citing, Hoffman v. Board of Educ., 49 NY2d 121, 424 NYS2d 376 and Matter of Board of Educ. v. Board of Educ., 80 AD2d 564, 435 NYS2d 358; Appeal of Sponcy, 33 Ed Dept Rep 126). Accordingly, absent a showing that respondent's policy is arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion, such determination may not be disturbed (Matter of Britt v. Rogers, supra; Appeal of Goldup, 30 Ed Dept Rep 477). In an appeal to the Commissioner, the petitioner has the burden of establishing the facts upon which he or she seeks relief (8 NYCRR 275.10; Appeal of Nash, 35 Ed Dept Rep 203; Appeal of Haff, 35 id. 130) and the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested (Appeal of Nash, supra; Appeal of DiMicelli, 28 Ed Dept Rep 327; Appeal of Amoia, 28 id. 150). On the record before me, petitioners have failed to establish facts sufficient to conclude that respondent's policy is arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. While the chain of events leading to Joseph's reassignment is unfortunate, even if, arguendo, petitioners' home was originally in the School #8 attendance area, respondent could have redistricted the attendance zones at any time.

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