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Decision No. 15,582

Appeal of R.F., on behalf of his daughter C.F., from action of the Board of Education of the Otego-Unadilla Central School District regarding student discipline.


Decision 15,582

(May 8, 2007)


Coughlin & Gerhart, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Carl A. Kieper, Esq., of counsel


MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges a half-day in-school suspension imposed by the Board of Education of the Otego-Unadilla Central School District (“respondent”) on his daughter, C.F.  The appeal must be dismissed.

During the 2005-2006 school year, C.F. was a senior at respondent’s high school.  On November 7, 2005, C.F. was feeling ill when she arrived at school.  Subsequently, she decided that she was too ill to remain at school.  When she was unable to contact her mother, she made arrangements for S.P., the mother of a friend and classmate, to come to school to pick her up. 

Pursuant to respondent’s student sign-out/early dismissal policy, a student must obtain permission from the school nurse or the office and sign the student sign-out sheet before leaving school.  The student is also required to leave the school through a designated exit that is monitored by a school employee.  

When S.P. arrived at the school, she claims that she went to the office and signed her name on the visitor sign-in/student sign-out sheet.  She stated that she was there to pick up C.F. and signed C.F.’s name on the sheet and noted the time.  An office staff member told S.P. to go to the nurse’s office to confirm whether she had the authority to remove C.F. from school.  On her way to the nurse’s office, S.P. saw C.F. leaning against a wall and incorrectly assumed that the nurse had released C.F. to meet her. 

In fact, C.F. had neither seen the school nurse nor received permission from any member of the school’s staff to leave school early due to illness.  S.P. never confirmed with the school nurse whether she had authorization to remove C.F. from school.  Instead, S.P. decided to leave the school with C.F. through an unauthorized exit because it was closest to where her vehicle was parked.  S.P. told C.F. that she had already signed her out. 

On November 8, 2005, the principal confirmed with C.F. that she had violated the student sign-out/early dismissal procedures and imposed a half-day in-school suspension.

Petitioner appealed the principal’s decision to the superintendent.  The superintendent denied petitioner’s appeal and affirmed the principal’s decision.  Petitioner appealed to respondent.  By letter dated November 22, 2005, respondent denied petitioner’s appeal and affirmed the half-day in-school suspension.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied.

Petitioner claims that the sanction imposed on C.F. was disproportionate to the severity of the offense involved and that the discipline imposed violates the discipline policy contained in the district’s student handbook.  Petitioner also asserts that respondent does not uniformly enforce the student sign-out/early dismissal policy.  Petitioner requests that I reverse the half-day in-school suspension and expunge any record of it contained in C.F.’s file.  Petitioner further requests that I instruct respondent to comply with §100.2(l) of the Commissioner’s regulations and the district’s student discipline policy.

Respondent contends that the sanction imposed on C.F. was proportionate to the severity of the offense involved.  Respondent maintains that it uniformly enforces the student sign-out/early dismissal policy.  Respondent claims that petitioner has failed to sustain his burden of proof.

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 C.A., Sr., 45 Ed Dept Rep 388, Decision No. 15,360; Appeal of the New York Charter Schools Assn., Inc., et al., 45 id. 376, Decision No. 15,355; Appeal of the Bd. of Trustees of the N. Merrick Public Library, et al., 45 id. 363, Decision No. 15,350).  C.F. has completed the in-school suspension.  Therefore, except to the extent that petitioner seeks expungement of C.F.’s record, the appeal is moot.

     In cases of student discipline, the sanction imposed must be proportionate to the severity of the offense involved.  The test to be applied in reviewing a penalty is whether it is so excessive as to warrant substitution of the Commissioner’s judgment for that of the board of education (Appeal of a Student Suspected of a Disability, 44 Ed Dept Rep 158, Decision No. 15,131; Appeals of J.J., 44 id. 113, Decision No. 15,115; Appeal of D.C., 43 id. 217, Decision No. 14,976).  Considering C.F.’s actions and her admission to the principal that she failed to follow the student sign-out/early dismissal procedures, I cannot conclude that a half-day in-school suspension was inappropriate.  Accordingly, I decline to substitute my judgment for that of respondent.

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