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Decision No. 16,784

Appeal of C.P., on behalf of his daughter C.P., from action of the Department of Education of the City School District of the City of New York regarding school choice.

Decision No. 16,784

(July 3, 2015)

Zachary Carter, Corporation Counsel, attorney for respondent, Judy Nathan, Esq., of counsel

BERLIN, Acting Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals a determination of the New York City Department of Education (“respondent”) not to enroll his daughter in a particular middle school in respondent’s Community School District (“CSD”) 15.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Pursuant to respondent’s general school choice policy, parents of students enrolling in middle school may submit a request listing three middle school preferences for their child to attend, in addition to the schools in their community school district (“CSD”) of residence.

Although not entirely clear from the petition, it appears that petitioner resided in CSD 32 prior to the 2008-2009 school year.  At some point, he was evicted and moved to CSD 13.  Apparently, however, his daughter attended elementary school in CSD 14.  Petitioner could have submitted middle school preferences for his daughter for the 2009-2010 school year but apparently did not do so, and she was enrolled in MS 50 in CSD 14 for that school year.  Petitioner did not appeal that determination.

Thereafter, in June 2010 petitioner moved to CSD 15, apparently to live with his brother.  At that time, petitioner also submitted a middle school choice application for the 2010-2011 school year.  Petitioner listed middle schools MS 447, MS 429 and MS 442 in CSD 15 as preferences.

Petitioner’s daughter was offered a seat in MS 442.  However, it appears that during the summer petitioner complained about the processing of his application due to his alleged homeless status, and sought his daughter’s admission to MS 447 or, alternatively, MS 51 in CSD 15.  However, no seats were available at those schools.  Thereafter, petitioner was afforded three additional school choices in CSD 15 and accepted her enrollment in IS 88 in that district.  It appears that respondent also informed petitioner that he would be able to choose a different middle school the following school year, depending on space availability.  Petitioner’s daughter attended IS 88 and received transportation at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year.

During the fall of the 2010-2011 school year petitioner relocated to CSD 13.  Thereafter, petitioner initiated this appeal, seeking his daughter’s enrollment in MS 447 or MS 51 in CSD 15.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied.

The petition in this matter is confusing and does not clearly set forth the chronology of events or the basis for petitioner’s claims.  The record submitted by respondent provides the factual information set forth above.  It appears that petitioner is asserting a right to admission to MS 447 or MS 51 in CSD 15 based on respondent’s alleged delay in processing of his school choice requests due to his homeless status.  He claims that his daughter should also be afforded an additional opportunity to take certain entrance examinations required for admission to those schools;  he claims that she missed taking them due to her alleged homelessness.

Respondent contends that no such entrance examination is required for admission; that petitioner’s daughter was initially assigned to MS 442 – one of the three schools petitioner initially selected as a preference; that petitioner’s daughter attended IS 88 pursuant to an agreement with petitioner; and that it processed all of petitioner’s requests appropriately.

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 relief, petitioner seeks his daughter’s admission to MS 447 or MS 51.  Petitioner and respondent agreed to enroll petitioner’s daughter in IS 88 for the school year at issue.  Petitioner’s request for an interim order in this appeal was denied and the school year concluded.  Accordingly, the matter is academic, and petitioner’s claims must be dismissed on that basis.

In addition, a petition must contain “a clear and concise statement of the petitioner’s claim showing that the petitioner is entitled to relief, and shall further contain a demand for the relief to which the petitioner deems himself entitled” (8 NYCRR §275.10).  Such statement must be sufficiently clear to advise a respondent of the nature of petitioner’s claim and of the specific act or acts complained of (id.).  Where petitioner is not represented by counsel, a liberal interpretation of this regulation is appropriate absent prejudice to the opposing party (Appeal of Stieffenhofer, 48 Ed Dept Rep 231, Decision No. 15,846; Application of Schenk, 47 id. 375, Decision No. 15,729).  Where a petition fails to state a comprehensible claim and fails to identify the specific remedy sought, it will be dismissed (see Appeal of Stepien, 48 Ed Dept Rep 487, Decision No. 15,926; Appeal of Darrow, 43 id. 394, Decision No. 15,029).  

In this case, the petition is so disjointed and confusing that it is impossible to discern with any degree of certainty the basis on which petitioner is asserting his claims or precisely when the action petitioner is challenging occurred, except that petitioner asserts that respondent denied his request in June 2010.  Under these circumstances, the petition does not set forth a clear and concise statement of petitioner’s claims showing that he is entitled to relief.