October 30, 2018

Challenging a hearing officer's determination following a §3020-a disciplinary hearing


Challenging a hearing officer's determination following a §3020-a disciplinary hearing
Appeal of Douglas S. White, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 17,521

Douglas S. White submitted an Education Law §3020-a hearing officer's decision finding him guilty of 6 of 7 specifications set out in two Charges filed against him by the Roosevelt Union Free School District Board of Education [Roosevelt] and the penalty imposed by the Arbitrator, suspension without pay for 42 school days, to the Appellate Division for judicial review.

The Appellate Division vacated portions of the hearing officer’s findings and remanded the matter to the hearing officer for a review and determination of the penalty to be imposed on White in consideration to the court's decision in the matter.*

The hearing officer, in consideration of the Appellate Division's decision, reduced the penalty to be imposed on White. White thereupon appealed the reduced penalty to the Commissioner of Education, contending, among other things, that the hearing officer erred by imposing a penalty upon on remand. 

Roosevelt challenged White's appeal, contending that it must be dismissed because [1] White failed to make proper service of his appeal; [2] the Commissioner lacked jurisdiction to consider White's appeal; and [3] White's appeal had been untimely filed.

Citing 8 NYCRR 275.8(a), the Commissioner said that the appeal must be dismissed for improper service, explaining that the Commissioner’s regulations requires that [1] the petition be personally served upon each named respondent and [2] if a school district is named as a respondent, service upon the school district is to be made personally by "delivering a copy of the petition to the district clerk, to any trustee or any member of the board of education, to the superintendent of schools, or to a person in the office of the superintendent who has been designated by the board of education to accept service."

Turning to Roosevelt's claim that the Commissioner "lacked jurisdiction to review the decision of a hearing officer in a §3020-a proceeding," the Commissioner noted that Education Law §3020-a was amended by Chapter 691 of the Laws of 1994 to divest the Commissioner of jurisdiction to review determinations of hearing officers, both final and non-final.

Addressing Roosevelt's argument claiming "untimeliness," the Commissioner said that "[w]eighing the parties’ submissions," she found that Roosevelt had met its burden of proving its affirmative defense that service was improper and that White failed to rebut the evidence provided by Roosevelt with respect to its claim of the lack of proper service.

Finally, the Commissioner noted that the only relief sought by White in this appeal is that "the charges be overturned and expunged from his record and that he be awarded reimbursement for his expenses resulting from the charges, including attorneys’ fees and lost wages." However, explained the Commissioner, "...  even if [White's] appeal had been properly served, it would be dismissed as [the Commissioner of Education has] no jurisdiction over [White's] claims and lack the authority to grant the relief sought."

* See White v Roosevelt Union Free Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 147 AD3d 1071, posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2017/2017_01371.htm

The Commission's decision is posted on the Internet at:


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