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Decision No. 18,028

Appeal of T.S., on behalf of her child E.M., from action of the Board of Education of the Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District regarding residency.

Decision No. 18,028

(August 9, 2021)

Gattuso & Ciotoli, PLLC, attorneys for petitioner, Stephen Ciotoli, Esq., of counsel

Ferrara Fiorenza, PC, attorneys for respondent, Donald E. Budmen and Lindsay A.G. Plantholt, Esqs., of counsel

ROSA., Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the determination of the Board of Education of the Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District (“respondent”) that E.M. (“the student”), is not a district resident.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Given the disposition of this appeal, a detailed recitation of the facts is unnecessary.  Petitioner and the student resided within respondent’s district during the 2019-2020 school year, the student’s junior year.  In May 2020, petitioner and the student moved to an address located outside of respondent’s district in Cazenovia, New York (the “out-of-district address”).  Respondent permitted the student to complete the 2019-2020 school year in accordance with board policy.  Respondent’s superintendent memorialized this determination in a letter dated June 8, 2020, indicating that the student would be excluded as of September 2020.

Over the summer, the parties engaged in extensive discussions regarding the student’s custody and physical presence in the district.  According to petitioner, she discovered, in or about May or June 2020, that the out-of-district address contained black mold.  Petitioner asserts that she thereafter relocated to an apartment within respondent’s district (the “in-district apartment”).  Petitioner also submitted a “temporary custody agreement” purporting to grant “temporary custody” of the student to his stepfather, who resides within respondent’s district.  Respondent did not accept this document as a complete transfer of custody and control.

In a letter to petitioner dated October 1, 2020, respondent’s superintendent reiterated his previous determination that the student was not a district resident.  Among other reasons, the superintendent noted that the student’s sibling had enrolled in the Cazenovia Central School District, identifying the out-of-district address as her residence.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on October 16, 2020.

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 that no longer exists due to the passage of time or a change in circumstances (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; see Matter of Hearst Corp. v Clyne, 50 NY2d 707, 714 [1980]).  Where the Commissioner can no longer award a petitioner meaningful relief on his or her claims, no live controversy remains and the appeal must be dismissed (Appeal of R.B., 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,394; Appeal of N.C., 40 id. 445, Decision No. 14,522).  In response to an inquiry from my Office of Counsel, counsel for petitioner submitted an affidavit dated July 28, 2021 indicating that the student received a high school diploma from the Cazenovia Central School District on June 26, 2021.  Consequently, the appeal is moot and must be dismissed (see Appeal of Walsberg, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,332; Appeal of S.P., 56 id., Decision No. 16,951; Appeal of L.B. and T.B., 55 id., Decision No. 16,832).

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