Skip to main content

Decision No. 14,315

Appeal of DOMINICK and LOUISE LEE, on behalf of MATTHEW LEE, from action of the Board of Education of the Pine Bush Central School District regarding student honors.

Decision No. 14,315

(February 25, 2000)

Donoghue, Thomas, Auslander & Drohan, attorneys for respondent, Rochelle J. Auslander, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the refusal of the Board of Education of the Pine Bush Central School District ("respondent") to place their son, Matthew, on the fifth grade honor roll. The appeal must be dismissed.

To be eligible for the fifth grade honor roll at respondent’s schools, a student must have: 1) all academic grades at B and above, except penmanship; 2) non-academic grades at S or above; and 3) no behavioral referrals (in school or on the bus).

On June 21, 1999, petitioners discovered that Matthew was not on the honor roll as they had expected, since he had received straight A’s and all S’s and O’s on his report cards. The next day, the assistant principal, Mrs. Powers, explained that Matthew was ineligible for the honor roll because he had received a behavioral referral from his classroom teacher, Tony DiCioccio, on May 21, 1999. On that date, Matthew pulled a chair away from a computer desk just as another student was about to sit down, causing the other student to grab the computer to avoid falling. After unsuccessfully appealing to the superintendent and respondent to place Matthew on the honor roll, this appeal ensued.

Petitioners assert that they never received a copy of the eligibility criteria, were never notified that Matthew had received a behavioral referral on May 21, 1999, and were never informed that he would be excluded from the honor roll. They further assert that Mr. DiCioccio did not see the incident, the other student was Matthew’s best friend and was not injured, the incident was a harmless prank, and the punishment of exclusion from the honor roll is unfair. They seek Matthew’s inclusion on the honor roll and amendment of the criterion regarding behavior referrals.

Respondent maintains that Matthew failed to meet the eligibility criteria, its actions were not arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, and the Commissioner lacks jurisdiction to prescribe honor roll criteria.

The appeal must be dismissed. Recognition for academic achievement is a local matter for which a board of education may impose reasonable standards (Appeal of S.P., 37 Ed Dept Rep 640, Decision No. 13,946; Appeal of Kuttner, 32 id. 39, Decision No. 12,749). In an appeal to the Commissioner, petitioners bear the burden of establishing all the facts upon which they seek relief (8 NYCRR "275.10, Appeal of Taylor, 39 Ed Dept Rep ___, Decision No. 14,261). I cannot find, and petitioners have failed to prove, that the district’s criteria for eligibility for the honor roll are unreasonable. Nor have they proved that respondent applied the criteria arbitrarily or capriciously. The third criterion clearly provides that a student must have no behavioral referrals. Although petitioners contend that the referral was unreasonable, Matthew’s action, while not malicious, was dangerous and Mr. DiCioccio’s referral was reasonable under the circumstances.

Furthermore, although petitioners claim that they and other fifth grade parents never received notice of the criteria, respondent asserts that the criteria were distributed at the district’s Open House in September and sent home with the students of those families who did not attend the Open House. Likewise, although petitioners assert that they never received notice of the behavioral referral resulting from Matthew’s misconduct, respondent asserts that such notice was sent to petitioners in May 1999. In the face of these conflicting assertions, I find that petitioners have failed to carry their burden of proving that respondent acted improperly.