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Decision No. 16,285

Appeal of ANTHONY PERRI, on behalf of his children SABRINA, GIANNA, and ANGELINA, from action of the Board of Education of the Arlington Central School District regarding residency.

Decision No. 16,285

(August 17, 2011)

Kuntz, Spagnuolo, Murphy & Gronbach, P.C., attorneys for respondent, Vanessa M. Gronbach, Esq., of counsel

KING, JR., Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the determination of the Board of Education of the Arlington Central School District (“respondent”) that his children are not district residents entitled to attend its schools tuition-free.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner’s three children have attended respondent’s schools since the eldest, Sabrina, entered kindergarten in 2002.  In March 2010, district staff became suspicious that petitioner and his children were not actually residing within the district because the children’s mailed progress reports were returned.  By letter dated March 23, 2010, the middle school principal requested proof of residency.  Petitioner provided several documents, including a notarized letter from his aunt claiming they lived with her, a change of address form, and proof of his aunt’s ownership of the in-district residence (“Arlington address”).  On August 27, 2010, the principal of the elementary school sent petitioner a letter requesting proof of residency.  Petitioner submitted another notarized letter from his aunt stating that he and his children live with her at the Arlington address.

Subsequently, in November 2010, respondent commenced surveillance on petitioner’s parents’ home, outside respondent’s school district (“New Hackensack address”).  Surveillance showed petitioner leaving that address and transporting his children to respondent’s schools.  Thereafter, on December 2, 2010, the assistant superintendent for pupil personnel services (“assistant superintendent”) notified petitioner that his children were not eligible to attend respondent’s schools, as they were not district residents.  However, petitioner was granted an opportunity to respond and submitted various documents relating to his divorce, as well as a letter explaining that he was in a “serious” automobile accident and, due to his injuries, he and the children were staying with his mother.  Petitioner asserted his intention to return to the Arlington address upon his recovery.

On December 21, 2010, the assistant superintendent issued a decision notifying petitioner that he was not a district resident and therefore, the children were not entitled to attend the district’s schools.  At the time, the children were allowed to remain in school until January 10, 2011.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s appeal included a request for interim relief.  On or about January 27, 2011, respondent’s attorney informed my Office of Counsel that respondent would permit the children to attend school in the district pending a final determination of the appeal.

Petitioner contends that he is a district resident.  He explains that his presence at the New Hackensack address was due to the fact that he was recovering from an accident and temporarily stayed at his mother’s.  Petitioner submits several documents in support of his claim of residency.

Respondent indicates that it was not previously provided with any of the documentation petitioner now submits.  Respondent concedes that petitioner established residency in the district as of December 2010 but asserts that from March 2010 through December 2010, petitioner did not reside in the district.  Respondent claims that, with respect to that time period, its actions were justified.

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 a Student with a Disability, 48 Ed Dept Rep 532, Decision No. 15,940; Appeal of M.M., 48 id. 527, Decision No. 15,937; Appeal of Embro, 48 id. 204, Decision No. 15,836).  As noted above, petitioner’s residency after the middle of December 2010 is no longer in dispute.  It is well established that the Commissioner does not issue advisory opinions or declaratory rulings in an appeal pursuant to Education Law §310 (Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 48 Ed Dept Rep 411, Decision No. 15,899; Appeal of Waechter, 48 id. 261, Decision No. 15,853). 

Because respondent no longer disputes petitioner’s current residence and seeks only a determination as to petitioner’s past residency status, no further meaningful relief can be granted and the appeal must be dismissed as moot.

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