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Decision No. 15,229

Appeal of M.G., on behalf of R.G., from action of the Board of Education of the Seaford Union Free School District regarding student discipline.

Decision No. 15,229

(May 12, 2005)

Murray & McCann, attorneys for petitioner, Joseph D. McCann, Esq., of counsel

Ingerman Smith, L.L.P., attorneys for respondent, Christopher Venator, Esq., of counsel


MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the suspension of her son, R.G., by the Board of Education of the Seaford Union Free School District ("respondent"). The appeal must be dismissed.

During the 2003-2004 school year, R.G. was an eleventh grade student attending Seaford High School. On June 14, 2004, R.G. and several classmates allegedly engaged in a hazing ritual known as "Freshman Friday" that included paddling eighth grade middle school boys on the grounds of a nearby private school.

A superintendent's hearing was held on July 28, 2004 and the hearing officer found R.G. guilty of participating in behavior that resulted in intimidation and physical assault on Seaford eighth grade middle school students. The superintendent informed petitioner by letter dated August 10, 2004 that R.G. would be suspended from school through January 28, 2005 and from participation in extracurricular activities and/or interscholastic athletics through June 30, 2005.

Petitioner appealed the suspension to respondent. Respondent sustained the superintendent's findings but modified the penalty to limit the suspension from extracurricular activities and/or interscholastic athletics to the same timeframe as the suspension from school, i.e. through January 28, 2005. This appeal ensued. On September 10, 2004, petitioner' s request for interim relief was denied.

Petitioner seeks an order reversing respondent's determination of guilt and the penalty of suspension. Petitioner contends that respondent had no jurisdiction over the hazing incident because it occurred after school hours and off school grounds. Petitioner contends that the hearing process was flawed, arguing, interalia, that only one witness testified that R.G. participated in the initiation and hit an eighth grade student. Petitioner argues that the hearing officer should have given more weight to affidavits she presented as contradictory evidence.

Respondent contends that its jurisdiction over the incident stems from a clear nexus between the paddling and the school-related initiation known as "Freshman Friday," targeting eighth grade Seaford students. Respondent contends that there was substantial evidence to support its determination, including detailed testimony from an eighth grade student who was injured during the incident. Respondent contends that the penalty is not excessive considering the gravity of the misconduct and the student's prior disciplinary record.

The appeal must be dismissed as moot. The Commissioner will only decide 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 A.F., 44 Ed Dept Rep 124, Decision No. 15,120; Appeal of D.W., 43 id. 188, Decision No. 14,965; Appeal of L.B., 43 id. 159, Decision No. 14,952). Petitioner does not request expungement of R.G.'s records. Since R.G. has served the suspension, no further meaningful relief can be granted and the appeal must be dismissed as moot (Appeal of A.F., supra; Appeal of D.W., supra; Appeal of L.B., supra).

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