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Decision No. 14,263

Appeal of ALLYSON LEAHY from action of the Board of Education of the Fairport Central School District regarding suspension from school.

Decision No. 14,263

(December 15, 1999)

Trevett, Lenweaver & Salzer, P.C., attorneys for petitioner, Lawrence J. Andolina, Esq., of counsel

Harris, Beach & Wilcox, LLP, attorneys for respondent, David W. Oakes, Esq., of counsel


MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges the decision of the Board of Education of the Fairport Central School District ("respondent") to suspend her from school for one year. The appeal must be dismissed.

On April 27, 1999, petitioner was a sophomore at Fairport High School. With another student, she visited a public library in Fairport and prepared an e-mail message on one of the library's computers, addressed to the principal of the Fairport High School. The message she prepared read: "I'm Gonna BLOW UP YOUR SCHOOL."

The message prepared by petitioner was opened and read by the high school principal early the following morning, April 28. The principal contacted both the superintendent and the local police department, and a decision was made to evacuate the school (approximately 1600 students and 150 staff members) while the building was searched. School was ultimately cancelled for the entire day. Later that day, the student who had accompanied petitioner to the library advised the principal of what had occurred the previous day.

The following morning, April 29, the principal contacted petitioner's mother, who came to the school to meet with him. After petitioner conferred privately with her mother, she apologized to the principal for having sent the message. Petitioner was suspended immediately for five days, with a disciplinary hearing scheduled for May 4.

The disciplinary hearing was ultimately held on June 21, 1999, at which time the hearing officer found petitioner guilty of having sent the bomb threat. On June 29, the hearing officer made his written recommendation that petitioner be suspended for a period of one year, to end on April 28, 2000. On July 8, respondent affirmed that recommendation. This appeal was timely commenced on August 4, 1999.

Petitioner does not claim that the finding of guilt was incorrect, but claims that the penalty imposed was unduly harsh and excessive, and asks that I overrule it. Respondent's answer, verified August 17, 1999, denied that the penalty was inappropriate, and raised several affirmative defenses, including a claim that petitioner, a minor, was not legally competent to maintain this proceeding.

Shortly thereafter, a second appeal was commenced by petitioner's mother, using an "amended petition" and seeking the same relief sought herein. The second appeal in essence supersedes this appeal, and renders it moot. It is well settled that the Commissioner of Education will only consider matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision on a state of facts which no longer exists or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of Davis, 38 Ed Dept Rep 805, Decision No. 14,148; Appeal of Angelo, 38 id. 803, Decision No. 14,147; Appeal of Meltzer, 38 id. 330, Decision No. 14,046).