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Decision No. 14,272

Appeal of WAH-A-GAH GROUND from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Salamanca, Board of Education President Robert Crandall, Superintendent John E. Hogle, High School Principal Charles T. Crist and Assistant Principal Laurence D. Whitcomb regarding student discipline.

Decision No. 14,272

(December 21, 1999)

Southern Tier Legal Services, attorneys for petitioner, Jeffrey M. Reed, Esq., of counsel

Hodgson, Russ, Andrews, Woods & Goodyear, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Karl Kristoff, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the decision of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Salamanca ("respondent board"), Board President Robert Crandall, Superintendent John E. Hogle, High School Principal Charles T. Crist, and High School Assistant Principal Laurence D. Whitcomb, to suspend her from school. The appeal must be dismissed.

On November 30, 1998, petitioner, then a student at Salamanca High School, physically attacked another student at the school. Later that day, after an investigation, petitioner was suspended for five days. On December 7, 1998, a hearing officer held a superintendent's hearing. Superintendent Hogle accepted the hearing officer's recommendations and on December 15, 1998 suspended petitioner for the remainder of the 1998-99 school year. On January 28, 1999, petitioner appealed that determination to respondent board, which affirmed the decision. This appeal ensued.

Petitioner, a Native American, admits that she attacked the other student, without warning, but alleges that she did so because a week earlier that student drove her car in a manner which threatened petitioner and which petitioner alleges was racially motivated. Petitioner further alleges that respondents acted in a culturally biased manner because only Native American students were disciplined in relation to these incidents. She contends respondent board has violated its Native American Tuition Contract. Petitioner argues that the suspension is excessive and asks that it be reduced to ten weeks.

Respondents contend that the punishment imposed was not excessive, that they did not violate the district's Native American Tuition Contract, that discipline was fairly imposed without regard to race, and that petitioner has not introduced any evidence to support her allegations.

Initially, I note that petitioner brought the appeal on her own behalf, but states in the petition that she is seventeen years old. A person under the age of 18 is not legally competent to maintain a proceeding pursuant to Education Law "310 (Appeal of Reynolds, 37 Ed Dept Rep 58, Decision No. 13,803; Appeal of a Child with a Handicapping Condition, 32 id. 43, Decision No. 12,751). Because petitioner is not 18 years of age, the appeal cannot be maintained and is dismissed.

The appeal must also be dismissed as moot. 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 exists or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of June D., 38 Ed Dept Rep 596, Decision No. 14,101; Appeal of Schuler, 37 id. 512, Decision No. 13,915; Appeal of Lawson, 36 id. 450, Decision No. 13,774). In her petition, petitioner only requested the reduction of her suspension for the remainder of the 1998-99 school year. Petitioner's request for relief was, therefore, specifically limited to the 1998-99 school year. In view of the fact that the 1998-99 school year has ended, it is no longer possible to grant the relief requested. Accordingly, the appeal must be dismissed as moot.