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Decision No. 14,964

Appeal of DONALD and KAREN VOLK from action of the Board of Education of the Gowanda Central School District regarding foreign exchange students.



(October 9, 2003)


Hodgson Russ, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Karl W. Kristoff, Tracie L. Lopard, Esqs., of counsel

 MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the decision of the Board of Education of the Gowanda Central School District ("respondent") to retain its policy to admit only those foreign exchange students sponsored by the American Field Service ("AFS") program.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioners are district residents who sought to host a foreign exchange student sponsored by Academic Year in the USA ("AYUSA") for the 2003-2004 school year.  Petitioner Karen Volk is employed by AYUSA as a regional director. 

Respondent"s written policy on the admission of foreign exchange students recognizes only the AFS as a sponsoring organization for the exchange of students.  By letter dated March 31, 2003, petitioners requested that respondent revise this policy to provide for the acceptance of a student sponsored by AYUSA.  Petitioners also personally presented their arguments to respondent at its April 2, 2003 meeting.  Respondent"s policy committee considered the matter at a meeting on April 22, 2003 and the full board reviewed it at a meeting on April 23, 2003.  By letter dated April 29, 2003, respondent"s president notified petitioners that respondent declined to change its policy, stating that it "prefers to keep the process as simple as possible and engage only one group in order to place and monitor foreign exchange students."  This appeal ensued.     

Petitioners allege that respondent"s policy to accept foreign exchange students from only one program is discriminatory.  They request that I order respondent to reverse its decision and require it to enroll a foreign student of their choice.

Respondent contends that the petition fails to state a claim under Education Law "310 or demonstrate that respondent acted arbitrarily, capriciously, or abused its discretion.  Respondent asserts that, in enacting its policy, it acted in good faith and within its powers pursuant to Education Law ""1709 and 3202.  Respondent also asserts that Federal regulations governing student exchange programs prohibit Mrs. Volk from serving as a host to an exchange student sponsored by AYUSA.

The appeal must be dismissed.  Under Education Law "3202(2), a school district may decide to accept nonresident students on terms prescribed by the board of education.  Additionally, Education Law ""1709(3) and (13) grant boards of education the power to regulate the admission of pupils, to admit non-resident students and to regulate and establish tuition fees for such nonresident students.  Accordingly, respondent may prescribe the terms and conditions under which it decides to admit nonresident students, including foreign exchange students.

In the instant case, respondent has presented reasonable and rational bases for its policy limiting admission of foreign exchange students to those sponsored by one organization.  Respondent"s president avers that in August 2002, respondent codified in a written policy its 20-year practice of accepting only those foreign exchange students sponsored by AFS.  He states that the district has established a strong working relationship with AFS officials and developed confidence in AFS"s ability to ensure that students conduct themselves appropriately.  He further notes that it is more efficient and effective to deal with one organization.  In addition, the president notes respondent"s concern that recognizing AYUSA could lead to requests to recognize more organizations and could result in an increase in the population of exchange students who do not pay tuition.

In an appeal to the Commissioner, petitioners have the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested and the burden of establishing the facts upon which they seek relief (8 NYCRR "275.10; Appeal of B.O. and D.O., 42 Ed Dept Rep ___, Decision No. 14,769; Appeal of Teri, 41 id. 95, Decision No. 14,626).  Petitioners have not offered credible evidence to support their allegation that respondent"s decision was discriminatory.  I find that respondent"s articulated reasons for recognizing only AFS as a sponsoring organization are neither arbitrary nor capricious.  Accordingly, its policy will not be overturned.

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