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Decision No. 18,376

Appeal of GABRIEL BONILLA, on behalf of his child, from action of the Board of Education of the Dobbs Ferry Union Free School District and Section I of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association regarding interscholastic athletics.

Decision No. 18,376

(February 7, 2024)

Shaw, Perelson, May & Lambert, LLP, attorneys for Dobbs Ferry Union Free School District, Julie M. Shaw, Esq., of counsel

ROSA., Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals from action of the Board of Education of the Dobbs Ferry Union Free School District (“respondent”) regarding the eligibility of his child (the “student”) to participate in interscholastic athletics.  The appeal must be dismissed.

The student, a district resident, attended public school during the 2020-2021 school year.  Beginning with the 2021-22 school year, the student attended a nonpublic school located outside of respondent’s district. 

In spring 2023, petitioner asked respondent if the student could play on the district’s high school softball team.  By email dated March 1, 2023, respondent’s superintendent informed petitioner that the student was ineligible because she attended a nonpublic school.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on April 6, 2023.

Petitioner acknowledges that the student is ineligible to participate on respondent’s softball team but suggests that a New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHAA) handbook provision permitting “(e)xceptions for special cases” applies under the circumstances.  For relief, petitioner requests a determination that the student is eligible to participate in interscholastic activities as a district resident.

Respondent contends that the petition must be dismissed, among other reasons, as without merit. 

Section 135.4 (c) (7) (ii) (b) (2) of the Commissioner’s regulations states that “[a] pupil shall be eligible for interschool competition in a sport … during a semester, provided that he or she is a bona fide student ....”  Section 135.1 (g) of the Commissioner’s regulations defines a bona fide student as “a regularly enrolled student who is taking sufficient subjects to make an aggregate amount of three courses and who satisfies the physical education requirement.”  

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 concedes that, at the time of this appeal, the student was not a bona fide student within the meaning of 8 NYCRR 135.4 because she attended a nonpublic school (Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 59 id., Decision No. 17,806).  This is unaffected by a single sentence in the NYSPHSAA handbook[1] concerning “special cases,” which is not applicable to the student’s circumstances.[2]  Thus, while I am sympathetic to the importance of softball to the student, I cannot find that respondent acted arbitrarily or capriciously in denying petitioner’s request (see Appeal of M.O., 62 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 18,232; Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 59 id., Decision No. 17,806).

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




[1] NYSPHSAA Handbook, available at (last accessed January 29, 2024).


[2]This sentence is contained within a paragraph addressing students who receive “shared services” and “tak[e] the equivalent of four subjects including Physical Education.”  As a result thereof, these students are “considered as being registered in the home school.”