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Decision No. 15,512

Appeal of M.N., on behalf of her son M.N., from action of the Board of Education of the Spackenkill Union Free School District regarding student discipline.

Decision No. 15,512

(December 28, 2006)

Michael Wolfe, Esq., attorney for petitioner

Donoghue, Thomas, Auslander & Drohan, attorneys for respondent, Daniel Petigrow, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the decision of the Board of Education of the Spackenkill Union Free School District (“respondent”) to suspend her son, M.N.  The appeal must be dismissed.

During the 2004-2005 school year, M.N. attended 11th grade in respondent’s high school.  By letter dated December 15, 2004, the principal informed petitioner that M.N. was being suspended for five days, pending the outcome of a superintendent’s hearing, for possession of marijuana while on school property.  M.N. was charged with conduct “which is disorderly, insubordinate, endangers the safety, morals, health or welfare of the student or others in violation of Section 3214 of the Education Law” and the district’s code of conduct.

By letter dated December 17, 2004, the district clerk notified petitioner that a superintendent’s hearing would be held on December 21, 2004, at which petitioner and M.N. had a right to be represented by counsel, to question witnesses and to present evidence on M.N.’s behalf.

At the superintendent’s hearing, M.N. admitted that he had possessed marijuana on school property and was found guilty.  The hearing officer recommended that M.N. be suspended for the remainder of the school year and that his case be reviewed midway through his suspension to determine if a reduction in the length of the suspension was warranted based on his behavior and academic progress.  By letter dated December 28, 2004, the superintendent informed petitioner that she had accepted the hearing officer’s finding of guilt and penalty recommendations.  Petitioner appealed and respondent affirmed the superintendent’s decision on January 18, 2005.  This appeal ensued.

Petitioner asserts that the penalty imposed was excessive.  Petitioner also claims, interalia, that she and her attorney were denied the opportunity to attend and present oral argument at the meeting at which respondent considered her appeal.  Petitioner requests that I overturn M.N.’s suspension and that M.N. be permitted to return to respondent’s high school.

Respondent maintains that M.N.’s conduct violated both Education Law §3214 and the district’s code of conduct and that he was therefore properly suspended. 

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 exist or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of B.K. and R.K., 44 Ed Dept Rep 195, Decision No. 15,146; Appeal of V.L., 44 id. 160, Decision No. 15,132; Appeal of Garvin, 44 id. 30, Decision No. 15,087).  Petitioner requests that I overturn M.N.’s suspension and that M.N. be allowed to return to respondent’s high school.    The penalty imposed was a suspension for the remainder of the 2004-2005 school year.  Since that school year has ended, and the suspension has been served, no meaningful relief can be granted and the appeal must be dismissed as moot.

I must also reject petitioner’s claim that she was improperly denied the opportunity to personally appear before respondent.  Education Law §3214 does not require a board of education to allow a petitioner to present oral argument in an appeal of a superintendent’s previous determination to suspend a student (Appeal of Wilson, 28 Ed Dept Rep 254, Decision No. 12,098; Appeal of P.K., 41 id. 421, Decision No. 14,733).

In light of this disposition, I need not address petitioner’s remaining contentions.