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Decision No. 15,054

Appeal of J.M. from action of Carol S. Boyce, Superintendent of the Odessa Montour Central School District, regarding the denial of access to school property.  

 (May 26, 2004)


Sayles & Evans, attorneys for respondent, James F. Young, Esq., of counsel


     MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the action of the Superintendent of the Odessa Montour Central School District ("respondent") banning him from district property.  The appeal must be dismissed.

     Petitioner is the father of three children who attend the district"s schools.  His former wife is a teacher in respondent"s district.  He and his former wife have joint legal custody of their children, with the mother having physical custody.

     In December 2002, petitioner went to respondent"s elementary school to watch his children participate in a pee-wee wrestling program.  His former wife"s then boyfriend, nowhusband, coaches the wrestling program and had leased the school cafeteria/gym for that purpose.  There was a verbal exchange at the practice between petitioner and the coach.  A county deputy sheriff came to the school, but no one was arrested.  Petitioner filed a complaint with the school principal, which was referred to respondent.

     By letter dated January 13, 2003, respondent notified petitioner that he could attend wrestling practice as long as other parents were allowed to watch, but he should leave school property promptly upon the completion of the practice.  The letter also informed petitioner that in recognition of the fact that he, his former wife and the coach had "differences," he should avoid any contact with them while on school property.  Failure to do so would result in his not being permitted on school property at any time.

     On January 21, 2003, petitioner attended a wrestling practice.  At the conclusion of the practice, petitioner and the wrestling coach had another altercation.  The police and paramedics were called to the scene.  While petitioner was speaking to the police, respondent told petitioner that he was no longer allowed on school property.  Petitioner commenced this appeal on September 29, 2003.

     Petitioner requests that he be allowed back on school property and that he be given the same access to information regarding his children as his wife.  He also asks that restrictions be imposed on the wrestling coach.

     Respondent alleges that petitioner"s appeal is untimely, and that he has failed to join his former wife and her husband as necessary parties.  Respondent also argues that petitioner"s access to his children is the subject of litigation pending in Schuyler County Family Court, and therefore is not a proper issue before the Commissioner.

An appeal to the Commissioner must be commenced within 30 days from the making of the decision or the performance of the act complained of, unless any delay is excused by the Commissioner for good cause shown (8 NYCRR "275.16; Appeal of Recore, 42 Ed Dept Rep 283, Decision No. 14,856; Appeal of Phillips, 40 id. 241, Decision No. 14,471).  On January 21, 2003, respondent told petitioner that he was no longer allowed on school property, which she confirmed in a letter a short time later.  Petitioner served a petition on September 29, 2003, well beyond the 30-day period, claiming that he was not aware of the option to appeal.  A lack of familiarity with the appeal process is not a sufficient excuse for delay (Appeal of Cushman, 42 Ed Dept Rep 116, Decision No. 14,793; Appeal of D.C., 41 id. 277, Decision No. 14,684).  Therefore, the appeal must be dismissed as untimely, and I need not address petitioner"s remaining contentions.