Skip to main content

Decision No. 13,789

Appeal of ALAN and RIZA LAUDIN, on behalf of their son

MATTHEW, from action of the Board of Education of the West Hempstead Union Free School District relating to participation in graduation exercises.

Decision No. 13,789

(July 8, 1997)

Guercio & Guercio, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Thomas M. Volz, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the decision of the Board of Education of the West Hempstead Union Free School District (Arespondent@) to prohibit their son Matthew from participating in the district=s high school graduation ceremony. The appeal must be dismissed.

On June 4, 1996, a teacher observed Matthew striking a book with an open pocketknife in her class. The teacher approached Matthew and directed him to give her the knife. Matthew refused, and the teacher had him escorted from the classroom. As a result of this incident, the high school principal suspended Matthew for five days.

On June 10, 1996, the superintendent conducted a hearing pursuant to Education Law '3214(3)(c) to determine whether to impose any further discipline. At the superintendent=s hearing, Matthew admitted possessing a knife in class, in violation of school rules and board policy, and being insubordinate. After Matthew=s admission, and upon consideration of Matthew=s anecdotal record, the superintendent suspended Matthew for the rest of the school year and barred him from attending the district=s graduation ceremony. This appeal ensued.

On June 18, 1996, respondent upheld the superintendent=s determination. On June 20, 1996, I denied petitioner=s stay request. The district=s graduation ceremony took place on June 23, 1996.

Petitioners contend that Matthew=s punishment was excessive, mean spirited and inconsistent with the offense committed. Respondent contends that its weapons policy prohibits the possession of any weapons, including knives, on school grounds. Respondent further contends that the decision to suspend Matthew and prohibit him from attending graduation was based on competent and substantial evidence. In addition, respondent maintains that this appeal is moot.

This appeal must be dismissed as moot. It is well settled that the Commissioner will only decide matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision upon a state of facts which no longer exists, or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of Kline, 35 Ed Dept Rep 91; Appeal of Doris J., 31 id. 153). Since the graduation ceremony took place on June 23, 1996, and since the only relief petitioners sought was for Matthew to participate in that ceremony, this matter is academic and I do not reach the merits of respondent's decision.