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Decision No. 17,048

Appeal of S.G.K., on behalf of her daughter S.G.K., from action of the Board of Education of the LaFayette Central School District regarding immunization.

Decision No. 17,048

(February 15, 2017)

Ferrara Fiorenza, PC, attorneys for respondent, Colleen W. Heinrich, Esq., of counsel

ELIA, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the determination of the Board of Education of the LaFayette Central School District (“respondent”) that her daughter, S.G.K. (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 May 29, 2015, petitioner submitted a request for her daughter’s exemption from the immunization requirements of PHL §2164 on religious grounds.  According to the record, petitioner received an undated letter on August 5, 2015 in which respondent denied petitioner’s request.  This appeal ensued. Petitioner’s request for interim relief was granted on September 2, 2015.

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 and seeks a determination that the student is entitled to a religious exemption from the immunization requirements under PHL §2164. 

Respondent contends that petitioner failed to provide sufficient information to support a religious exemption and that petitioner's objections to immunizations are not based on genuine and sincerely held religious beliefs.  Respondent also contends that the appeal is moot.

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).  I take administrative notice that in Appeal of S.G.K., 56 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,043, petitioner’s appeal from respondent’s determination to deny her children admission as non-resident tuition-paying students in the 2016-2017 school year based upon her failure to make timely tuition payments was dismissed and respondent’s determination was upheld.  Respondent’s denial of admission for other reasons 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 religious exemption request and/or its policy, 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 not currently attending respondent’s school district and it is not presently known if or when respondent might seek to exclude the student or another non-resident student in the future based on failure to submit proof of immunization.  I decline to render an advisory opinion regarding the legality of respondent’s policy. 

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