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Decision No. 14,475

Appeal of R.P. and D.P., on behalf of R.S.P., from action of the Board of Education of the North Babylon Union Free School District regarding home instruction.

Decision No. 14,475

(October 12, 2000)

Guercio & Guercio, attorneys for respondent, John P. Sheahan, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the determination of the Board of Education of the North Babylon Union Free School District ("respondent") that the Individualized Home Instruction Plan ("IHIP") they submitted for their son for the 1998-99 school year did not meet the requirements of the Commissioner’s regulations (8 NYCRR "100.10). The appeal must be dismissed.

By letter dated June 18, 1998, petitioners advised Superintendent Susan Savitt that they intended to educate their son, R.S.P., at home during the 1998-99 school year. On August 5, 1998, Maureen Fallon, the district’s Director of Social Studies and Language Arts, mailed petitioners a copy of the Commissioner’s regulations with a series of worksheets to be used in preparing an IHIP. Ms. Fallon advised petitioners that the IHIP worksheets are "designed to provide a standard format which should be used by parents in the administration of home instruction to describe their educational plan to the school district." The IHIP worksheets consisted of a cover page with blanks for the child’s name and address, dates for submission of quarterly reports, and signatures of parents and instructors. The remaining pages of the IHIP worksheet consisted of a table for each of 12 required subjects, with columns headed "Plan of Instruction", "Materials/Evaluation" and "Quarterly Report Information." Each column was broken into four sections — one for each quarter of the school year.

In early September 1998, petitioners submitted an "IHIP" document to the superintendent for the district’s review. The first page of the document was a completed copy of the IHIP cover sheet that Ms. Fallon had previously supplied to petitioners. However, petitioners did not submit completed copies of the remaining IHIP worksheets but, instead, forwarded a document prepared by the Clonlara School, a home education service with which they had contracted. This document was labelled as R.S.P.’s IHIP.  It listed the 12 subject areas that the State requires first grade students to study and stated that, for each subject area, "a plethora of resources may be utilized." The document also briefly listed topics to be included in each area of study and stated that materials and resources to be used included videos, museums, computer programs, games and books of interest. Textbooks were identified for only 3 subjects.

On September 17, 1998, Ms. Fallon mailed petitioners another set of the IHIP worksheets and asked petitioners to complete the forms using the information from the Clonlara School plan. Petitioners did not do so. By letter dated October 8, 1998, Ms. Fallon informed petitioners that the IHIP they had submitted to the district did not comply with the Commissioner’s regulations.

A series of telephone calls and letters between petitioners, the Director of the Clonlara School and district officials followed. By letter to petitioners dated December 11, 1998, Superintendent Savitt explained that the IHIP was deficient and outlined the information needed to complete it. She asked petitioners to submit a revised IHIP within 15 days. Petitioners responded on January 5, 1999 indicating that they were in compliance with State regulations and asking to be left alone.

By letter dated January 14, 1999, Dr. Savitt advised petitioners that respondent would review her determination at its January 28, 1999 meeting. Petitioner R.P. and a representative from Clonlara School appeared at that meeting. After discussing the matter in executive session, respondent upheld the superintendent’s determination that the IHIP document submitted by petitioners was out of compliance with the Commissioner’s regulations. This appeal ensued.

Petitioners allege that the IHIP prepared by Clonlara School is sufficient to meet the requirements of the Commissioner’s regulations. Petitioners appear to argue that they did not complete the IHIP form provided by school officials because that form is intended to be used for quarterly reports. They contend that respondent has attempted to impose requirements upon them that are not applied to other families who choose home schooling and that respondent is obstructing their rights to educate their child at home and to contract with Clonlara School.

Respondent asserts that the appeal is untimely and moot. Respondent also contends that the IHIP was not submitted on the district’s forms, as required by 8 NYCRR "100.10, and that it did not contain a list of the syllabi, curriculum materials, textbooks or plan of instruction to be used in each of the mandated subjects as the regulation also requires.

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 exists or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of Mace, 40 Ed Dept Rep __, Decision No. 14,433; Appeal of J.Y. and E.Y., 40 id. ___, Decision No. 14,403; Appeal of K.M., 39 id. 301, Decision No. 14,243). Respondent determined that petitioners’ IHIP for the 1998-99 school year did not comply with the Commissioner’s regulations. That school year has concluded. In response to a request by my Office of Counsel, the parties have verified that petitioners submitted IHIPs for the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 school years and district officials determined that the plans complied with the Commissioner’s regulations. As the school year covered by the disputed IHIP has ended, no meaningful relief can be granted and the appeal must be dismissed as moot.

As a point of information to all parties in this matter, it appears to me that more diligent, good faith efforts could have resolved this dispute long ago without resort to an appeal to the Commissioner under "310 of the Education Law. Reasonable cooperation between parents and school district officials is essential to ensure the best educational interests of students receiving an education through home instruction consistent with 8 NYCRR "100.10. I, therefore, urge the parties to work more cooperatively with each other in the future.

In view of the foregoing, I will not address the parties’ remaining contentions.