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Decision No. 14,542

Appeal of N.B., on behalf of J.B., from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Glen Cove regarding student discipline.

Decision No. 14,542

(March 14, 2001)

Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman, LLP, attorneys for petitioner, Meredith W. Ayres, Esq., of counsel

Jaspan Schlesinger Hoffman, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Laura J. Granelli, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the determination of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Glenn Cove ("respondent") to suspend her son from school. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner"s son is a 2000 graduate of Glen Cove High School. On April 17, 2000, while a senior, he was involved in two incidents with female students in the boys lavatory on the first floor of the high school. On April 19, 2000, the complaining students were interviewed and petitioner was notified by telephone and letter that her son would be suspended upon his return from an out-of-state school-related baseball tournament. The district was closed for spring recess from April 20 through April 30, 2000. Petitioner"s son began serving a five-day suspension on May 1. On May 2, 2000, petitioner received written notice of a hearing to be held May 5, 2000 on charges that her son had sexually harassed one female student and sexually abused another. Petitioner"s son testified on his own behalf and was represented by counsel. The superintendent issued his determination on May 9, 2000, finding petitioner"s son guilty of sexually abusing a female student. A suspension was imposed for the remainder of the 1999-2000 school year and home tutoring was provided to enable petitioner"s son to graduate. Petitioner appealed to respondent and respondent upheld the suspension on June 13, 2000. This appeal ensued. Petitioner seeks a new hearing because respondent failed to hold a fair and impartial hearing and to properly weigh the evidence.

Petitioner contends that respondent"s decision was arbitrary and capricious, was not based upon substantial evidence, had no rational basis and was an abuse of discretion. Petitioner contends that her son was denied due process because he was not told what he was accused of or by whom until the hearing. Petitioner also contends that the civil rights of her son and three African American students who testified on his behalf were violated because their testimony was accorded less credibility than the complaining witness and that respondent has a history of discrimination against minority students, as well as a history of imposing more severe punishment against minority students.

Respondent denies that its decision was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable and asserts that petitioner was provided adequate notice of the charges against her son prior to the hearing. Respondent contends that the student witnesses petitioner called were admittedly her son"s friends and/or relatives who conceded they did not want to see him get into trouble. Respondent contends that their testimony was inconsistent except that they all agreed petitioner"s son was in the bathroom with the female student on the date and time alleged. Respondent contends that its decision was based upon substantial evidence, including testimony by the principal and both complaining female students at the hearing. Respondent denies discriminating against petitioner"s son based on his race, asserts that one of the complaining female students is African American, and contends that petitioner lacks standing and the Commissioner lacks jurisdiction to rule upon claims on behalf of individuals who are not a party to the appeal. Respondent also contends that the matter is moot since petitioner"s son was provided home instruction for the duration of the suspension, completed the suspension, and graduated from the Glen Cove High School in June 2000 with a high school diploma.

The appeal must be dismissed as moot. The Commissioner of Education will only decide 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 N.C., 40 Ed Dept Rep ___, Decision No. 14,522; Appeal of Clouston, 39 id. 656, Decision No. 14,343; Appeal of Debbie L., 39 id. 505, Decision No. 14,294). The relief petitioner seeks is another hearing, but it is undisputed that her son served the suspension and graduated with a high school diploma, ending his entitlement under Education Law "3202 to attend respondent"s schools. Thus, the requested relief of holding another hearing would no longer be meaningful and the appeal must be dismissed as moot.

In light of the foregoing disposition, I need not address the parties" remaining contentions.