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Decision No. 14,356

Appeal of DIANE M., on behalf of her daughter, K.M., from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Rye regarding the denial of participation in interscholastic sports.

Decision No. 14,356

(May 8, 2000)

Shaw and Perelson, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Margo L. May, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the denial of her daughter's eligibility to participate in interscholastic field hockey during the first quarter of the 1999-2000 school year. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner's daughter, K.M., was in eleventh grade during the 1998-99 school year. In the fourth quarter of that year, she received failing grades in two courses, English and American History, as a result of her failure to submit required assignments. While K.M. failed the courses for the quarter, she passed them for the year.

Respondent has a regulation which makes any student who fails two or more courses in one quarter ineligible to participate in extra-curricular activities during the following quarter. After K.M. received failing grades in the fourth quarter of the 1998-99 school year, respondent precluded her from participating in interscholastic field hockey during the first quarter of the 1999-2000 school year. On August 10, 1999, petitioner requested a waiver from respondent's superintendent to permit K.M. to participate in field hockey during the first quarter of the 1999-2000 school year. The superintendent denied petitioner's request on August 24, 1999 and forwarded the request for respondent’s consideration on August 31, 1999. On September 1, 1999, the superintendent advised petitioner that respondent also denied the waiver request. This appeal ensued. Petitioner’s request for a stay order was denied on September 14, 1999.

Petitioner contends that respondent’s regulation, which precluded her daughter from participating in interscholastic field hockey, is inequitable because its impact on students varies. Petitioner further argues that her daughter should not be penalized by this regulation because respondent failed to notify her that her daughter was in danger of failing.

Respondent contends that its standards for student participation in extracurricular activities are reasonable and that petitioner has failed to meet her burden of establishing the facts upon which she seeks relief.

The appeal must be dismissed as moot. 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 exist or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of Studley, 38 Ed Dept Rep 258, Decision No. 14,028; Appeal of Lascala, 38 id. 16, Decision No. 13,974). Petitioner's request for relief concerns her daughter's eligibility to participate in inter-scholastic sports during the first quarter of the 1999-2000 school year. As the first quarter has ended, the matter is moot.

Even if the appeal were not dismissed on procedural grounds, it would be dismissed on the merits. At its meeting of June 30, 1998, respondent approved an extra-curricular activities policy that requires middle and high school students to have "a minimum of a 65 average with no failures or a maximum of one failure with a plan to remediate to fully participate in athletics, clubs, organizations, or theater." On September 8, 1998, respondent adopted a regulation to implement this policy, which provides in pertinent part:

A student who fails two or more courses in one quarter is automatically ineligible for participation in activities, clubs and athletics for the following quarter and the student will be required to attend the Academic Intervention Center. . . .

Respondent sent the above-cited regulation to each parent of middle and high school students, prior to the commencement of classes in the 1998-99 school year, and distributed it to each student in September 1998. Respondent's assistant principal also advised petitioner of the requirements of this regulation on two occasions in the 1998-99 school year, when K.M. received "incompletes" in courses.

Petitioner claims that the regulation is unfair because it has a varying impact on students. Petitioner argues that it is unfair that students who do not participate in a sport in a quarter after having failed two courses are not penalized, while students who happen to participate are penalized. I don't find this argument persuasive. The regulation precludes all students who fail two courses in a quarter from participating in any extra-curricula activity, including clubs, organizations and theater, as well as athletics. It has uniform application to all middle and high school students in respondent's district. The regulation cannot be viewed as unfair because a student may choose not to participate in extra-curricular activities in a particular quarter.

Petitioner also contends that it was unfair to penalize K.M. because petitioner was not notified during the fourth quarter of any academic difficulties her daughter was experiencing and could have prevented the failing grades. I have reviewed K.M.'s academic record submitted as evidence in this case and find that it demonstrates a pattern of failing to turn in assignments throughout 1998-99, and that respondent repeatedly notified petitioner about this problem. On the record before me, petitioner was on notice of the eligibility policy and her daughter's recurrent problem of not turning in assignments in 1998-99. I find no inequity in the application of the regulation in this case.

A board of education has the authority to establish reasonable standards of conduct for participation in extracurricular activities, and unless it is shown that the board has abused its discretion, its policy will be upheld (Appeal of Cynthia and Robert W., 37 Ed Dept Rep 437, Decision No. 13,899; Appeal of Catherine B., 37 id. 34, Decision No. 13,797; Appeal of E.L., 36 id. 130, Decision No. 13,679). Pursuant to Education Law ""2503(1) and (2) and 1709(2) and (3), respondent board of education has the authority to prescribe the course of study in its schools, which includes the authority to establish reasonable academic standards as a prerequisite for eligibility for participation in extra-curricula activities (Appeal of Stopka, 34 Ed Dept Rep 157, Decision No. 13,267; Appeal of Howard J., 31 id. 381, Decision No. 12,674). Based on the record before me, I do not find that respondent abused its discretion by curtailing K.M.'s participation in interscholastic athletics during the first quarter of the 1999-2000 school year.

I have reviewed petitioner's remaining contentions and find them to be without merit.