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Decision No. 13,917

Appeal of the PARENT-STUDENT COALITION OF FALLSBURG, on behalf of the children of Fallsburg Jr./Sr. High School, from action of the Board of Education of the Fallsburg Central School District and Gary Holbert, Superintendent, regarding a school youth officer.

Decision No. 13,917

(April 14, 1998)

Bernard Silverman, Esq., attorney for respondents

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the actions of the Board of Education and the superintendent of the Fallsburg Central School District ("respondents") concerning the use of a police officer on school grounds. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner appears to be an unincorporated association of parents and students in the Fallsburg Central School District. In 1996, the district and the Fallsburg Police Department agreed to have a youth officer present on school premises. Petitioner alleges that many complaints have been made by students against the youth officer for inappropriate conduct. Appended to the petition are a number of the student complaints, which allege the use of profanity by the officer, unwarranted searches of students, derogatory comments, harassment and threats of physical violence. On October 15, 1996, some students held a protest in front of the school to object to the youth officer’s treatment of them. Petitioner alleges that the students were disciplined for their participation in this event. Petitioner seeks a full investigation of this matter by an independent third party.

Respondents raise a number of procedural defenses. Respondents contend that petitioner lacks standing, that the document attached to the notice of petition does not comply with the requirements of 8 NYCRR 275.3, that the document fails to state a claim and that the document fails to state a clear and concise claim. Respondents also contend that they have thoroughly investigated this matter and made appropriate changes that render this appeal moot.

As a threshold matter, it seems that petitioner attempts to bring a class appeal since the caption indicates the appeal is brought "on behalf of the children of Fallsburg Jr./Sr. high school." An appeal may only be maintained on behalf of a class "where the class is so numerous that joinder of all the members is impracticable and where all questions of fact and law are common to all members of the class" (8 NYCRR 275.2; Appeal of Czerepak, 31 Ed Dept Rep 448). Petitioner must set forth the number of individuals she seeks to represent (Appeal of Sperl, 33 Ed Dept Rep 388) and must show that all questions of law and fact would be common to all members of the class (Appeal of Donnelly, 33 Ed Dept Rep 362). Although petitioner states that there are 610 children in the high school, she fails to show common questions of law and fact. Therefore, class status is denied.

This appeal must be dismissed for lack of standing to bring an appeal before the Commissioner of Education. This appeal was brought by the Parent-Student Coalition of Fallsburg, and the petition was verified by an individual who identified herself as a representative of that group. There is no indication that the coalition is incorporated, nor is there any evidence that the person verifying the petition is in any manner personally affected by respondents’ action. An unincorporated association lacks standing to maintain an appeal to the Commissioner (Appeal of Concerned Taxpayers Awareness Group, 35 Ed Dept Rep 448; Appeal of The Plaza School Playground Committee, 35 id. 83). Therefore, the appeal must be dismissed for lack of standing.

The appeal must also be dismissed on the merits. Petitioner alleges that a youth officer who works in the school has engaged in inappropriate behavior towards students and seeks an investigation of the matter. Respondents have provided a copy of a report made by the superintendent concerning the alleged complaints against the school youth officer. It appears that respondents have taken actions to rectify the problems identified by petitioner. The Commissioner of Education will not decide matters which subsequent events have put to rest (Appeal of Nolan, et al., 36 Ed Dept Rep 26; Appeal of Goldin, 35 id. 446).