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Decision No. 14,758

Appeal of PAUL and KATHLEEN HAVENS from action of the Board of Education of the Greece Central School District regarding control of visitation.

Decision No. 14,758

(July 24, 2002)

Harris Beach, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Edward A. Trevvett, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioners challenge a rule approved by the Board of Education of the Greece Central School District ("respondent") which eliminated a prior practice of the Holmes Road Elementary School which allowed parents to escort their children to their classrooms at the beginning of the school day. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioners are the parents of a kindergarten student at the Holmes Road Elementary School in respondent"s district. At the beginning of the 2001-2002 school year, approximately 360 students attended that school in kindergarten, first, and second grades. Approximately 50 sets of parents personally dropped off their children at the school at the beginning of each day.

According to the affidavit of the school principal, prior to the opening of school in September 2001, members of her staff expressed the view that permitting parents to escort their children to their classrooms was not conducive to the safety or well being of the students and staff, and created considerable disruption at the beginning of the day. After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the principal"s concerns regarding safety and security matters increased significantly.

While the parties differ somewhat as to the exact facts and timing, at some point in October 2001 the principal established a rule that parents would no longer be permitted to escort their children to their classrooms, but must remain in the foyer of the building. It appears that petitioners are able to drop their child at the foyer and watch him walk to his classroom, which the principal estimates is no more than 30 to 40 feet from the foyer. In addition, petitioners are able to wave to their son through a window after he has reached his classroom.

Because they strongly disagreed with this rule, petitioners wrote a letter to the president of the board of education, challenging the Holmes Road policy, and urging the adoption of a district-wide policy permitting parents to escort their children to the classroom. Respondent denied petitioners" suggested policy change in a letter from the board president dated November 28, 2001. Petitioners commenced this appeal on January 18, 2002, and sought a stay to permit them to escort their child to his classroom during the pendency of this appeal. That request was denied on February 1, 2002.

Petitioners seek an order allowing them to sign in as visitors to the Holmes Road school each day, and to accompany their son to his classroom. Petitioners claim that they have a right to escort their son to his classroom.

Respondent denies any wrongdoing, and denies that petitioners have any right to escort their child to his classroom. Respondent also claims that the appeal is untimely, and that petitioners have demonstrated no injury to any right as a result of the rule change.

The appeal must be dismissed. In an appeal to the Commissioner, petitioners have the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested (8 NYCRR "275.10; Appeal of Schadtle, 40 Ed Dept Rep 60, Decision No. 14,421; Appeal of Greenburgh Eleven Federation of Teachers, 39 id. 262, Decision No. 14,231; Appeal of Acme Bus Corporation, 37 id. 219, Decision No. 13,848). Petitioners cite no authority for the existence of a right to escort their child to his classroom, other than certain rules in the district"s code of conduct, which state that any person who is not a regular staff member or student is considered a visitor, and that all visitors must report to the principal"s office or other designated area upon arrival. I do not find that these procedural rules establish any parental right to escort a child to the child"s classroom (Appeal of Canazon, 33 Ed Dept Rep 124, Decision No. 12,997, at p. 126).

To the contrary, Education Law "1709(2) and (33) make it clear that it is the board of education which may establish rules and regulations concerning order and discipline in the schools (see, e.g., Appeal of Canazon, supra; Appeal of Keller, 32 Ed Dept Rep 47, Decision No. 12,753). I find respondent"s decision to restrict parents to the foyer area, rather than halls and classrooms, during a time of heavy traffic each morning, to be well within its authority.

In view of this disposition, it is unnecessary to consider the parties" other claims, which I find without merit.