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Decision No. 14,046

Appeal of TERRY MELTZER, on behalf of her son, from action of the Board of Education of the Herricks Union Free School District regarding student discipline.

Decision No. 14,046

(December 15, 1998)

Ingerman Smith, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Neil M. Block, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges the disciplinary measures imposed upon her son by the Board of Education of the Herricks Union Free School District ("respondent"). The appeal must be dismissed.

On November 26, 1997, petitioner's son, Jarrett, drove a car to the Herricks High School student lot, although he had no parking permit. Petitioner had written a note requesting that he be excused at 1:00 p.m. to go to a medical appointment. However, the school had previously scheduled an evacuation drill for that same time period, and when Jarrett tried to leave the student lot, he was told by school officials that he could not operate his vehicle during the drill. He nevertheless opened the closed gate, and left school premises. As a result, the high school principal determined, among other things, that Jarrett had violated an administrative health and safety order, created a dangerous situation, and been insubordinate to school personnel. He was forbidden to park at the school until February 3, 1998 (later extended to the end of the third quarter of the 1997-1998 school year), was barred from attending the Senior Banquet in June 1998, and suspended from school for four days (with home instruction, however).

Petitioner appealed these determinations to respondent board of education, which finally denied her appeal on January 26, 1998. Petitioner commenced this appeal on February 12, 1998, and sought a stay.

The petition in this matter does not challenge the underlying facts, and indeed the facts are not at issue. Nor does petitioner claim that her son was not guilty of the offenses alleged. Her challenge is limited to the penalties prescribed, claiming that they are out of proportion to the infractions, and are arbitrary, capricious, and discriminatory.

The papers submitted by respondent in opposing petitioner's stay request indicated that respondent would reconsider whether or not to continue the parking ban and whether or not Jarrett would be allowed to attend the Senior Banquet on April 8, 1998. With that understanding, I denied the stay request on February 23, 1998, but stated that if the continuing penalties against driving to school and attending the Senior Banquet had not been modified by April 8, petitioner could make a new stay application. Thereafter, upon inquiry by my Office of Counsel, respondent's attorney indicated that the parking ban had been terminated and that Jarrett would be allowed to attend the Senior Banquet in June.

The appeal is now moot. Petitioner has not challenged the underlying determination of guilt, but only the severity of the penalties imposed. Both penalties have now been served, and Jarrett has graduated from school. It is well settled that the Commissioner will only consider matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision on a state of facts which no longer exist or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of Lascala, 38 Ed Dept Rep 16; Appeal of Schuler, 37 id. 512; Appeal of Lawson, 36 id. 450).