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Decision No. 18,357

Appeal of S.R. and T.J.R, on behalf of their child, from action of the Island Trees High School principal regarding student discipline.

Decision No. 18,357

(November 16, 2023)

Brill Legal Group, PC, attorneys for petitioner, David Gray, Esq., of counsel

Guercio and Guercio, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Eric Levine, Esq., of counsel

ROSA., Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the decision of the Island Trees High School principal (“principal”)[1] to impose discipline on their child (the “student”).  The appeal must be dismissed.  

The student attended eleventh grade in respondent’s high school during the 2022-2023 school year.  On the morning of October 20, 2022, the student asked another student (“student witness”) if he wanted “to see the strap in my backpack.”  The student witness reported the student’s comment to a teacher, and a district security guard searched the student’s backpack.  During the search, the security guard discovered “accordion straps amongst other school related items.” 

The student was then sent to the principal’s office.  According to an assistant principal, who was also present at that time, the student admitted to asking the student witness if he wanted see his “strap” and acknowledged that he “understood the term ‘strap’ had multiple meanings, including a gun or weapon.” 

Petitioner S.R. met with the principal on the morning of October 20, 2022.[2]  Petitioner S.R. was also provided with a letter from the principal dated October 20 which proposed a five day out-of-school suspension from October 21 through October 27, 2022.[3]

In a letter dated October 21, 2022, respondent indicated that the student violated the district’s Code of Conduct and would be suspended for five days, from October 21, 2022 through October 27, 2022.  The record reflects that respondent contemplated, but did not pursue, a long-term suspension hearing concerning the student’s conduct.  This appeal ensued. 

Petitioners maintain that respondent did not provide them with timely notice of their right to an informal conference.  For relief, petitioners request that the Commissioner expunge the short-term suspension from the student’s record.

Respondent contends, among other procedural defenses, that petitioners failed to exhaust their administrative remedies.  On the merits, respondent contends that the principal’s decision was supported by competent and substantial evidence. 

The appeal must be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.  Students who are suspended from school for five days or less may appeal their suspensions directly to the Commissioner unless a school district has adopted a policy requiring students to appeal short-term suspensions to the board of education before appealing to the Commissioner (Appeal of J.H. and R.H., 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,317; Appeal of F.M., 48 id. 244, Decision No. 15,849; Appeal of J.R-B., 46 id. 509, Decision No. 15,578).  Such policy must be reasonable and clearly communicated to parents (see Appeal of Halpern and Halpern, 58 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,480; Appeal of D.O., 53 id., Decision No. 16,543). 

Here, respondent has adopted a policy requiring students to appeal short-term suspensions to the superintendent and board prior to commencing an appeal to the Commissioner.  The essential requirements of this policy were communicated to petitioners in the October 21, 2022 letter from the principal.[4]  Petitioners admit that they received this letter but do not explain why they did not appeal the principal’s determination to the superintendent or the board.[5]  To the extent petitioners contend that they were engaged in settlement negotiations with respondent, the Commissioner has refused to excuse late submissions on that basis (e.g., Appeal of Mercedes, 56 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,985; Appeals of McLaughlin and Wood, 55 id., 16,886).  In this respect, respondent denies that it represented to petitioners that the short-term suspension would be expunged as a result of negotiations between the parties.  Thus, the appeal must be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

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




[1] Although neither the board of education nor the school district were named as respondents, the board of education is referred to herein as “respondent” for purposes of clarity.


[2] Petitioners contend that the principal stated the student would not be permitted to return to the school until he received a mental health evaluation.  Respondent denies this allegation.


[3] The parties dispute when this letter was received.  Petitioners contend they did not receive the letter until they returned home from the meeting with the principal on October 20.  Respondent maintains that the letter was provided by hand from principal to petitioners prior to the start of that meeting, which respondent further contends was, in fact, the informal conference. 


[4] Respondent acknowledges that the October 2022 letter identifies shorter timeframes (5 and 10 days, respectively) than those contained in respondent’s policy (30 days).  While this would likely have excused a late appeal, it cannot excuse petitioners’ failure to follow this process whatsoever (cf. Appeal of J.F., 62 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 18,239).


[5] Petitioners did not submit a reply (8 NYCRR 275.14).