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Decision No. 14,264

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

Decision No. 14,264

(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 daughter, Allyson, from school for one year. The appeal must be dismissed.

The facts of the appeal are set forth in the companion decision Appeal of Leahy (39 Ed Dept Rep _______, Decision No. 14,263), and will not repeated here. As noted in that decision, upon respondent's objection to an appeal maintained by Allyson Leahy, a minor, this appeal was commenced on August 27, 1999. The notice of petition and petition are virtually identical to the papers in the first appeal, they seek the same relief, and they differ only in that Marsha Leahy, the mother of Allyson Leahy, is the petitioner.

Petitioner challenges only the penalty imposed as being unduly harsh and excessive. Respondent, while defending the propriety of the penalty, asserts that the instant appeal is untimely, since it was commenced more than 30 days after respondent affirmed the penalty.

I will not dismiss the matter for untimeliness. The record indicates that, prior to the commencement of this appeal, petitioner's counsel contacted my Office of Counsel, which agreed to accept the papers in this appeal without payment of an additional filing fee. In essence, this appeal has superseded the prior appeal. The prior appeal was served in a timely manner, presented identical claims, and there is no showing or possibility of prejudice to respondent.

With respect to the merits, I find that the appeal must be dismissed. I note that petitioner's daughter made her bomb threat on April 27, 1999, only seven days after the tragic shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, where bombs were also found. Petitioner's counsel correctly points out that no actual bomb was placed, no injuries occurred, and petitioner's daughter has faced criminal charges and exposure to media coverage which has caused her great embarrassment. However, this type of argument was advanced in Appeal of McNamara (37 Ed Dept Rep 326, Decision No. 13,871) and rejected.

I find the imposition of a one year suspension upon a student as the penalty for directing a bomb threat against a school -- particularly in the context of the recent incident in Columbine -- to be entirely within the proper discretion of a board of education and, therefore, refuse to set aside respondent's determination in this matter (Appeal of Joseph F., 39 Ed Dept Rep ________, Decision No. 14,226; Appeal of B. B., 38 id. 666, Decision No. 14,113; Appeal of Forestiero, 34 id. 592, Decision No. 13,419). As I stated in Appeal of Joseph F.: "There can be no greater concern than the safety of our school children. Students must learn that such 'pranks' will not be tolerated under any circumstances."