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Decision No. 13,858

Appeal of CRAIG and PENNY BLASKE from action of the Board of Education of the Portville Central School District regarding the application of disciplinary policies.

Decision No. 13,858

(February 2, 1998)

Ferrara, Fiorenza, Larrison, Barrett & Reitz, P.C., attorneys for respondent, Marc H. Reitz, Esq., of counsel


MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioners' two daughters, Brandy and Tiffany, attended the Portville High School in respondent's school district during the 1996-1997 school year. While the petition covers a great many topics and incidents, petitioners essentially challenge three disciplinary actions taken against their daughters.

In May 1996, Brandy received a two-day suspension in connection with her consumption of certain food and beverages owned by the school district. In September 1996, Tiffany was suspended from the junior varsity girls' volleyball team as a result of her consumption of alcohol at a party off school grounds on September 21, 1996. Tiffany was suspended from September 30, 1996, to October 30, 1996, during which time she missed ten regular season games and lost any chance to advance to the varsity team for post-season play. On January 21, 1997, Brandy was suspended from the varsity girls' basketball cheerleading squad as a result of a party off school grounds held on January 10, 1997, attended by numerous students and athletes, at which alcohol was present. While the exact length of Brandy's suspension is not entirely clear, she was excluded from several school basketball games. Numerous other students were suspended from athletic teams at the same time, but none for more than five games.

While the petition sets forth many other incidents, and seeks a host of remedies, most of which are not within my authority, the real argument presented is that the board of education and administration of the district have acted inconsistently in applying the district's Athletic Code of Conduct and other disciplinary rules. For example, Tiffany's thirty-day suspension in September 1996, which appears to be consistent with the Athletic Code of Conduct, caused her to miss at least ten volleyball games, and was thus a much more substantial penalty than the shorter suspensions given to Brandy and other students in January 1997, which also involved the consumption of alcohol. In addition, with respect to the May 1996 incident, it appears that some but not all of the students involved may have been disciplined, while others went unpunished.

The appeal must be dismissed. As pointed out in the answer, the appeal was commenced by service on March 31, 1997, which was more than thirty days after any of the disciplinary actions complained of, in violation of 8 NYCRR "275.16. Petitioners apparently believed that their time to commence an appeal did not begin until February 28, 1997, the date of what they described as the "last letter" from the district. However, that letter was the final letter in a series of correspondence that began almost immediately after the January 21 suspension, and is in the nature of a request for reconsideration. Numerous Commissioner's decisions have previously held that a request for reconsideration does not extend the time in which to commence an appeal (Appeal of Ytuarte, 36 Ed Dept Rep 238; Appeal of Goodman, 35 id. 93; Appeal of Regan, 34 id. 72; Appeal of Yip, 25 id 296; Appeal of Ritz, 25 id. 240).

In addition to untimeliness, the appeal is moot. As a result of information requested by my Office of Counsel pursuant to 8 NYCRR "276.5, it appears that petitioners no longer reside in the district, but reside in Illinois. As a result, even if I were otherwise able to do so, I could grant no meaningful relief under these circumstances.

Although I am constrained to dismiss this appeal, petitioners have presented facts and arguments which bring into question the fairness of certain disciplinary actions taken pursuant to respondent's Athletic Code of Conduct. Indeed, some of the papers submitted by respondent appear to recognize that inconsistencies have occurred. The superintendent's affidavit recognizes that the September 1996 suspension of Tiffany Blaske was in accord with the Athletic Code, whereas the suspensions of January 1997 were considerably less stringent and did not comply with the minimum thirty-day suspension for student alcohol offenses set forth in the Code. Since that time, it also appears that the district has adopted a new Interscholastic Athletic/Extracurricular Policy which provides for a minimum four-week suspension for student alcohol violations, but allows earlier reinstatement if the student attends voluntary sessions for substance abuse education. I caution the district to comply with its new policy, and to apply it in a fair and even-handed manner to all students.

I have considered the other arguments of the parties and find them without merit.