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Decision No. 17,584

Appeal of N.G., on behalf of her son K.L., from action of the Board of Education of the Lynbrook Union Free School District regarding student discipline.

Decision No. 17,584

(February 11, 2019)

Frazer & Feldman, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Christie Jacobson, Esq., of counsel

ELIA, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the determination of the Board of Education of the Lynbrook Union Free School District (“respondent”) to suspend her son (“the student” or “K.L.”) from school.  The appeal must be dismissed.

During the 2017-2018 school year, the student attended eighth grade at respondent’s middle school.  On April 11, 2018, the student was involved in an altercation with another student at school.  By letter dated April 11, 2018, respondent’s middle school principal notified petitioner that the student would be suspended from school for five days, from April 12 through April 18, 2018, because “on April 11, 2018, during Math and Science class[,][K.L.] engaged in conduct that threatens violence.”  The letter asserted that K.L.’s “continued presence in school poses a continuing danger and/or an ongoing threat of disruption to the academic process.”  The letter offered petitioner an informal conference with the principal and advised that a referral would be made to respondent’s superintendent for additional discipline if deemed necessary.

By letter dated April 12, 2018, the superintendent charged the student with various violations of the district’s code of conduct, including the conduct detailed above, as well as lying to a school administrator.  The letter advised petitioner of the student’s due process rights and further advised that the superintendent had appointed a hearing officer to conduct a hearing.

The hearing was held on April 17, 2018. The student was represented by his mother and testified in his own defense.  In a report, the hearing officer recommended that the student be found guilty of the six charges against him and found that, with regard to the April 11, 2018 incident, the student had “engaged in conduct that was insubordinate, disorderly, violent, disruptive, and a danger to the safety, morals, health and welfare of others.”  The report further noted that the student had an extensive disciplinary record as a student in respondent’s district.  Accordingly, the hearing officer recommended that the student’s suspension should continue through the end of the 2017-2018 school year (i.e., June 30, 2018).

By letter dated April 19, 2018, the superintendent notified petitioner that she had adopted the hearing officer’s recommendations regarding guilt and penalty.  By letter dated April 23, 2018, petitioner appealed the superintendent’s decision to respondent.  By letter dated May 4, 2018, respondent’s district clerk notified petitioner that respondent had upheld the superintendent’s determination.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on May 29, 2018.

Petitioner asserts that the student did not commit the acts for which he was found guilty; was treated unfairly because of his race; received an excessive penalty because of his race; and was not provided with an appropriate alternative education during his suspension.  For relief, petitioner requests that I “order the student [K.L.] to return back to school” and conduct an “investigat[ion] [of] all claims in this petition.”

Respondent argues that the appeal must be dismissed on several grounds.  Specifically, respondent argues, inter alia, that the appeal is moot; that petitioner’s request that I conduct an investigation is outside the scope of the Commissioner’s authority in an appeal pursuant to Education Law §310; that the district based its determination on a rational interpretation of the evidence presented at the hearing; and that the penalty was appropriate in light of the serious nature of the conduct and the student’s prior disciplinary history.

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 Sutton, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,331; Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 48 id. 532, Decision No. 15,940; Appeal of M.M., 48 id. 527, Decision No. 15,937).

The record reflects that the student served his entire suspension through the end of the 2017-2018 school year.  Petitioner does not seek expungement of the student’s record; therefore, at this juncture, there is no meaningful relief that can be granted.  Accordingly, petitioner’s claims regarding her son’s suspension are moot and must be dismissed (Appeal of A.V., 58 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,505; Appeal of T.W., 54 id., Decision No. 16,728; Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 52 id., Decision No. 16,375).

The appeal is also moot to the extent petitioner alleges that respondent failed in its responsibility to provide appropriate alternative instruction for the student.  Here, the student has completed the suspension for which he was provided alternative instruction, thus rendering any dispute as to these services moot (Appeal of A.V., 58 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,505; Appeal of F.A., 57 id., Decision No. 17,383).[1]

Finally, petitioner’s remaining request that I “investigate all claims” raised in her petition must be dismissed as beyond the scope of an appeal pursuant to Education Law §310.  An appeal to the Commissioner is appellate in nature and does not provide for investigations (Appeal of D.C., 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,223; Appeal of Huffine, 48 id. 386, Decision No. 15,893).

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




[1] In this respect, I note that respondent denies petitioner’s allegations and asserts that it “made appropriate arrangements for the required amount of alternate instruction to be provided K.L. during the period of his suspension....”