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Decision No. 15,627

Appeal of D.B., on behalf of her son D.B., from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Hudson and Principal Steven Spicer, regarding student discipline.

Appeal of S.T., on behalf of her son N.T., from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Hudson and Principal Steven Spicer, regarding student discipline.

Decision No. 15,627

(August 13, 2007)

Michael C. Howard, Esq., P.C., attorney for petitioners, Michael C. Howard, Esq., of counsel

Rapport, Meyers, Whitbeck, Shaw & Rodenhausen, LLP, attorneys for respondents, Victor M. Meyers, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--In two separate appeals, petitioners challenge the disciplinary measures imposed on their sons by the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Hudson (“respondent board” or “board” ) and Steven Spicer, high school principal (“respondent Spicer” or “Spicer”).  Because the appeals involve similar issues of fact and law, they are consolidated for decision.  The appeals must be dismissed.

During the 2005-2006 school year, petitioners’ sons, D.B. and N.T., were seniors at respondent’s high school.  Between May 11 and 14, 2006, they participated in a senior trip to Baltimore, Maryland.  Prior to the trip each student and his parents signed a permission form by which they acknowledged that there would be no consumption or possession of alcohol on the trip.  On May 12, 2006, the trip chaperones became suspicious that alcohol was being consumed and initiated a search of students’ hotel rooms.  A glass containing a small amount of a substance one chaperone described as tasting and smelling of bourbon whiskey, along with a water bottle containing a dark amber liquid, were found in the room occupied by petitioners’ sons and two other students.  A toxicology analysis identified the liquid in the water bottle as consistent with hard liquor, such as whisky or rum.  All four students were questioned and none admitted ownership or possession of the glass or water bottle.

By letters dated May 16 and 17, 2006, petitioners were informed of their right to request an immediate informal conference.  On May 17, 2006, a combined informal conference was held after which Spicer determined that petitioners’ sons would be suspended for five days, lose their “passport privileges,” be prohibited from attending the senior prom and be removed from the baseball team.  However, the complaining witnesses were not present.  The imposition of penalties on both students was stayed pending the completion of a second informal conference, held on May 22, 2006, at which the complaining witnesses were present.

By letters dated May 23, 2006, the principal sustained his initial determinations.  By facsimile dated May 22, 2006, petitioners appealed the principal’s determinations to the interim superintendent who, by letter dated June 2, 2006, affirmed the principal’s decisions.  By letter dated June 6, 2006, petitioners appealed the interim superintendent’s decisions to respondent board.  These appeals ensued.  Petitioners’ requests for interim relief were denied on June 13, 2006.

Petitioners allege that they did not receive notice of the charges as required by Education Law §3214(3)(b)(1) prior to their sons’ suspensions.  Petitioners contend that there was no indication that their sons consumed alcohol, that they were aware that alcohol was present in their hotel room, and that it was arbitrary and capricious to attribute possession of liquor to their sons.  Petitioners allege that other students were mingling about their sons’ hotel room prior to the discovery.  Petitioners request that their sons be permitted to return to school and participate in all school-related activities.

Respondent alleges that the petitions fail to state sufficient facts to support the relief requested, that the proceedings are moot and that petitioners have failed to exhaust their administrative remedies.

The appeals must be dismissed as to respondent Spicer.  Section 275.8(a) of the Commissioner’s Regulations provides in pertinent part:

A copy of the petition, together with all petitioner’s affidavits, exhibits, and other supporting papers, . . . shall be personally served upon each named respondent, or, if he cannot be found upon diligent search, by delivering and leaving the same at his residence with some person of suitable age and discretion, . . . (emphasis added)

The record shows that petitioners served copies of the petition upon the associate principal and respondent board, but failed to personally serve Spicer.  Where a petitioner fails to serve individually named respondents, claims against those respondents individually must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction (Appeal of Bluemke, et al., 39 Ed Dept Rep 447, Decision No. 14,281).  Hence, all claims against Spicer are dismissed.

The appeals as to respondent board 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).  Here, the 2005-2006 school year has ended and petitioners’ sons have served their suspensions.  Petitioners do not seek the expungement of their son’s records.  Therefore, the appeals are moot.

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