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Decision No. 16,638

Appeal of KEYSHUN L. KITTLES-JOYNER, on behalf of her son TYROME JOYNER, JR., from the action of the North Babylon Union Free School District regarding residency.

Decision No. 16,638

(August 7, 2014)

Guercio & Guercio, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Gary L. Steffanata, Esq., of counsel

     KING, JR., Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges the determination of the North Babylon Union Free School District (“respondent”) that her son is not a district resident and is not entitled to attend district schools.  The appeal must be dismissed.

     The record indicates that Tyrome enrolled in respondent’s district in September 2013 using a West Babylon address, within respondent’s district.  Petitioner maintains that Tyrome resides in the district with her boyfriend, Mr. Louis Walthall (“Mr. Walthall”) until she completes a one-year military duty in Korea in August 2014. Petitioner states that she granted legal guardianship to Mr. Walthall upon leaving for Korea in September 2013.

     Respondent became suspicious that Tyrome lived outside of the district and conducted surveillance at Mr. Walthall’s residence on six occasions between March 25, 2014 and April 1, 2014.  The investigator reported that during these observations he did not witness Tyrome entering or exiting Mr. Walthall’s in-district residence.

     A residency hearing was held on April 10, 2014 at which Mr. Walthall testified via telephone that Tyrome resides with him.  He also testified that two to three nights a week, Tyrome stays at his grandmother’s house, located outside the district. Mr. Walthall indicated that he travelled for work and was away from home often.

     By letter dated April 11, 2014, respondent’s Director of Student Data Services notified petitioner that her son was no longer eligible to attend respondent’s schools because he did not reside within the district and would be excluded as of April 25, 2014. This appeal ensued. Petitioner’s request for interim relief was granted on April 30, 2014.

     Petitioner claims that Tyrome resides with Mr. Walthall and therefore is a district resident.  To support her claim, petitioner submits a military power of attorney document purporting to show a legal transfer of custody of Tyrome from her to Mr. Walthall.

Respondent alleges that it properly determined that petitioner’s son is not a district resident based on the investigator’s surveillance evidence and testimony received at the April 10 residency hearing.  

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).  Although petitioner requests a determination that Tyrome is a district resident, she also states that Tyrome has been attending respondent’s schools since September 2013 and “I am requesting that the commissioner allow him to stay until [sic] the duration of the school year.”  In her verified petition, petitioner states that she will be returning from Korea in August 2014, at which time Tyrome “is expected to resume living with his mother in the state of Georgia.”  In his testimony at the hearing, Mr. Walthall also indicates that petitioner’s assignment in Korea is “temporary” and that she would be returning to the U.S. in August.  Mr. Walthall explained that upon her return to the U.S., petitioner “has to go back to Georgia” and that Tyrome would be going with her.  Because the 2013-2014 school year has ended and petitioner has stated that she and Tyrome will reside in Georgia as of August 2014, no meaningful relief can be granted and the appeal must be dismissed as moot.