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Decision No. 16,879

Appeal of M.G., on behalf of her daughter G.G., from action of the Board of Education of the Queensbury Union Free School District regarding immunization.

Decision No. 16,879

(February 17, 2016)

Bartlett, Pontiff, Stewart & Rhodes, P.C., attorneys for respondent, Karla Williams Buettner, Esq., of counsel

ELIA, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the determination of the Board of Education of the Queensbury Union Free School District (“respondent”) that her daughter, G.G. (the “student”), is not entitled to a religious exemption from the immunization requirements of Public Health Law (“PHL”) §2164.  The appeal must be dismissed. 

On July 15, 2015, petitioner submitted a request for her daughter’s exemption from the immunization requirements of PHL §2164 on religious grounds.  By letter dated August 21, 2015, respondent denied petitioner’s request.  Subsequently, on or about September 22, 2015, petitioner submitted and was granted a medical exemption from immunization based on a note from the student’s physician indicating that the student “is on antibiotics for Lyme disease” and “after her body has a chance to heal itself for a time she can return for the Proquad vaccine.”  As a result, respondent permitted the student to remain in respondent’s school.  This appeal ensued.

Petitioner challenges respondent’s denial of her request for a religious exemption, asserting that she has genuine and sincere religious beliefs that are contrary to immunization.  Petitioner acknowledges that her appeal was not timely commenced and asks that the late filing be excused.

Respondent contends that the appeal must be dismissed as untimely.  Respondent further maintains that its determination denying petitioner’s request for a religious exemption to immunization was not arbitrary and capricious and should be upheld.  

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).  According to the record, petitioner’s daughter was granted a medical exemption from required immunizations which renders petitioner’s challenge to respondent’s denial of her religious exemption request academic. 

To the extent that petitioner, nevertheless, seeks review of respondent’s denial of her exemption request on religious grounds, the Commissioner will not render an advisory opinion on an issue before it becomes justiciable (Appeal of B.R. and M.R., 48 Ed Dept Rep 291, Decision No. 15,861; Appeal of Lachler, 47 id. 455, Decision No. 15,752).  The record indicates that the student is currently attending respondent’s school pursuant to her medical exemption.  Thus, it is not presently known if or when respondent might seek to exclude the student in the future or whether petitioner’s circumstances will have changed at that juncture.[1]  Therefore, review of petitioner’s religious exemption request at this time would be merely advisory.  

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




[1] Pursuant to 10 NYCRR §66-1.3 (c) medical exemptions must be reissued annually.