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Decision No. 16,375

Appeal of a STUDENT WITH A DISABILITY, by his parent, from action of the Board of Education of the Churchville-Chili Central School District regarding student discipline.

Decision No. 16,375

(July 20, 2012)

Van Henri White, Esq., attorney for petitioner

Harris Beach PLLC, attorneys for respondent, David W. Oakes, Esq., of counsel

KING, JR., Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the decision of the Board of Education of the Churchville-Chili Central School District (“respondent”) to suspend his son through the end of the 2010-2011 school year.  The appeal must be dismissed.

During the 2010-2011 school year, petitioner’s son, a student with a disability, attended respondent’s Ninth Grade Academy (“Academy”).  By notice dated December 17, 2010 (“notice”), petitioner’s son was suspended by the Academy’s principal for five days and charged with “[e]ngaging in conduct which endangered the health, safety and welfare of himself and/or others.”  Specifically, the notice accused petitioner’s son of possessing a “weapon” (identified as “an object appearing to be a box cutter”) and presenting it to another student on December 17, 2010.  In addition, the notice advised petitioner that, among other things, a recommendation was being made to respondent’s superintendent to schedule a hearing to consider whether an additional suspension was warranted.   

On December 23, 2010, a superintendent’s hearing was conducted and, based on the evidence presented, the hearing officer found petitioner’s son guilty of the charges against him.  In addition, the record reflects that a manifestation team met that same day and determined that the actions of petitioner’s son were not a manifestation of his disability.  Accordingly, respondent’s superintendent suspended petitioner’s son for the remainder of the 2010-2011 school year.  Petitioner appealed to respondent which upheld its superintendent’s decision.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on March 28, 2011.

Petitioner contends, among other things, that his son has been “falsely accused” of possessing a weapon, and asserts that respondent did not adequately prove that his son possessed a box cutter.   In addition, petitioner argues that a box cutter does not meet the definition of a “weapon” and contends that his son’s punishment was “excessively harsh.”  Further, petitioner challenges the manifestation determination on both substantive and procedural grounds and also suggests that respondent’s decision upholding his son’s suspension pre-dated an “official” manifestation determination.  Petitioner, therefore, requests that I overturn respondent’s decision and “return [his] school.” 

Respondent, among other things, denies petitioner’s allegations and maintains that the finding of guilt is supported by competent and substantial evidence.  In addition, respondent denies that the suspension imposed was unreasonable or excessive.  Finally, respondent asserts that I lack jurisdiction over claims related to manifestation determinations.

Petitioner’s claims relating to respondent’s manifestation must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because those issues are properly the subject of an impartial hearing brought pursuant to Education Law §4404(1) and §200.5(j) of the Commissioner’s regulations and not an appeal pursuant to Education Law §310 (Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 49 Ed Dept Rep 406, Decision No. 16,064; Appeal of S.A.M., 44 id. 481, Decision No. 15,238). 

In addition, 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).   Here, the record reflects that petitioner’s son was suspended through the end of the 2010-2011 school year.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied and, subsequently, that school year ended.  Petitioner does not seek expungement of his son’s records.  Accordingly, petitioner’s claims regarding his son’s suspension are moot.

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