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Decision No. 15,840

Appeal of P.E. and B.E., on behalf of their daughter B.E., from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Watervliet, Paul J. Padalino, Superintendent, and Lori Caplan, Principal, regarding suspension from extracurricular activities.

Decision No. 15,840

(October 7, 2008)

Mann Law Firm, P.C., attorneys for petitioners, Matthew J. Mann, Esq., of counsel

Ferrara, Fiorenza, Larrison, Barrett & Reitz, P.C., attorneys for respondents, Norman H. Gross, Esq., of counsel

Mills, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the suspension of their daughter, B.E., from all extracurricular activities for a period of 30 school days.  The appeal must be dismissed.

At the commencement of this appeal, B.E. was a senior at Watervliet High School, and a member of the girls’ varsity track team.  On April 4, 2008, B.E. attended a party at which alcohol was present.  She was arrested together with approximately 12 other young persons by the Watervliet Police Department.

On Monday, April 7, 2008, B.E. was suspended from all extracurricular activities for 30 school days, for violation of a portion of the Extracurricular Code of Conduct applicable to all student athletes in the school.  The suspension was to end on May 30, 2008.  During the suspension, B.E. was barred from participation in girls’ varsity track meets, attendance at formal dances at the school on May 3 and May 10, 2008, and the spring sports banquet.

On April 9, 2008, Superintendent Padalino met with B.E. and her parents to discuss her suspension.  According to the superintendent’s affidavit: “In response to direct questioning, B.E. admitted not only that she was present at the party, but that she was aware that alcohol was possessed by minors at the party, that she was aware of the provisions of the Extracurricular Code of Conduct which prohibited her attendance and that she was aware of the consequences of violating this provision of the Code.”

Petitioners appealed the suspension to the board of education at its meeting on April 22, 2008, but the board did not decide on the matter at that time.

On April 29, 2008, petitioners commenced this appeal, seeking, among other things, interim relief, to allow B.E. to attend a formal dance on Saturday, May 3, 2008.  On April 30, 2008, the board of education denied the appeal brought to it on April 22, 2008.

On April 30, 2008, petitioners obtained an order to show cause from Supreme Court, Albany County, commencing an Article 78 proceeding against respondents and the Commissioner of Education.  Among the forms of relief sought, petitioners asked for an order staying the extracurricular suspension, and compelling the Commissioner to render a decision on the stay request in this appeal no later than May 2, 2008.

On May 2, 2008, I denied petitioners’ request for a stay.  Later that day, petitioners voluntarily discontinued their Article 78 proceeding.

Petitioners allege that respondents failed to comply with several procedural requirements in the Extracurricular Code of Conduct.  However, their main contention is that the suspension imposed on B.E. for 30 school days was unduly harsh, since B.E. had never previously been disciplined.  Respondents generally deny any wrongdoing, and argue that the penalty imposed was specifically authorized for a first offense by the Extracurricular Code of Conduct.

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 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).

After I denied petitioners’ stay request, B.E. served the extracurricular suspension, and B.E. graduated from Watervliet High School on June 27, 2008.  As a result, and as a practical matter, there is no meaningful relief that can be granted herein (seeAppeal of Lucas, 39 Ed Dept Rep 267, Decision No. 14,233, and cases cited therein).

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