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Decision No. 18,341

Appeal of L.L., on behalf of her child, from action of the Board of Education of the Mount Sinai Union Free School District regarding participation in interscholastic athletics.

Decision No. 18,341

(September 14, 2023)

Kevin A. Seaman, Esq., attorney for respondent.

ROSA., Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the decision of the Board of Education of the Mount Sinai Union Free School District (“respondent” or “the board”) that denied the application of petitioner and her child (the “student”) to combine with another school district’s high school bowling team.  The appeal must be dismissed.

At the time of the events of this appeal, the student attended respondent’s high school.  In an email to the district’s director of athletics dated March 17, 2022, petitioner requested that the district combine with another school district to enable her son to participate on a bowling team.[1]  Petitioner indicated that staff at another school district stated that the district would not seek any “reciprocity from Mt. Sinai” [and] would “provide all necessary transportation.”  The director responded the next day, indicating that the district does not combine sports teams with other districts.  Respondent’s superintendent also wrote to petitioner on March 21, 2022, indicating that the district’s opposition to combining teams “ha[d] been Board/district policy for years.”  The superintendent suggested that petitioner “explain [] [her] situation” to respondent.

At a board meeting on August 23, 2022, the student requested that he be allowed to play for the other school district’s bowling team.  Respondent declined, citing its longstanding practice of not permitting the combining of teams.[2]  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on September 22, 2022.

Petitioner maintains that respondent improperly refused to allow the student to play on another school district’s bowling team.  Petitioner seeks a determination that the student is entitled to participate on one of two school districts’ bowling teams.

Respondent asserts that it permissibly declined to combine with another school district’s high school bowling team. 

In an appeal to the Commissioner, a petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested and establishing the facts upon which he or she seeks relief (8 NYCRR 275.10; Appeal of P.C. and K.C., 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,337; Appeal of Aversa, 48 id. 523, Decision No. 15,936; Appeal of Hansen, 48 id. 354, Decision No. 15,884).

Petitioner has not identified any legal authority that would require respondent to permit the student to play on another district’s bowling team.  The policies of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) and Section XI, the division of NYSPHSAA to which respondent belongs, give boards of education discretion to decide whether to combine sports teams.[3]  Absent a finding that a board acted in an arbitrary or capricious manner, neither a parent nor the Commissioner can compel a board to exercise such discretion (cf. Appeal of  Lee, 58 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,506 [describing analogous circumstances regarding the admission of students who turn five on or before December 1 during the school year in which they seek admission]).  Petitioner has not demonstrated that respondent arbitrarily or capriciously denied her request.  Indeed, respondent indicates that it does not permit the combination of any team sports.  Therefore, petitioner has failed to demonstrate a clear legal right to her requested relief.

While the appeal must be dismissed, I encourage respondent to individually consider each request to combine sports teams.  Combination is often desirable as it permits “students from small schools to play on combined

sports teams with students from other districts.”[4]  A blanket prohibition on combining team sports necessarily diminishes student access to sports.




[1] Respondent’s district does not have a bowling team.


[2] In its answer, respondent clarifies that it permits combination for individual competition sports, but not for entire teams.


[3] Subject to the following conditions: (1) permission must be obtained from their league and section on an annual basis and (2) section approval must be reported to NYSPHSAA. 


[4] The quotation is from an article submitted by petitioner summarizing 2013 changes to NYSPHSAA policy regarding combinations. Cathy Woodruff, “Merging Sports Teams Just Got Easier,” New York State School Boards Association, On Board Online, Feb. 11, 2013.