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Monday, January 07, 2019

Commissioner of Education lacks jurisdiction to consider appeals involving acts or omissions of post-secondary education institutions


Commissioner of Education lacks jurisdiction to consider appeals involving acts or omissions of post-secondary education institutions
Appeal of Diana Marie Van Vleet, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 17,538

Diana Marie Van Vleet appealed an action of Molloy College, an institution of post-secondary education concerning Ms. Van Vleet's being given a failing grade in a course. 

The record before the Commissioner of Education indicated that at the time of the events described in this appeal, Ms. Van Vleet was enrolled as a student at Molloy College and here presents claims against Molloy College and several of its officers and employees asserting that she was improperly given a failing grade in one of her courses. 

The Commissioner said that Ms. Van Vleet's appeal must be dismissed as outside the jurisdiction of the Commissioner of Education in an appeal pursuant to Education Law §310.  The pertinent portion of Education Law §310 reads as follows:

"Any party conceiving himself aggrieved may appeal by petition to the commissioner of education who is hereby authorized and required to examine and decide the same; and the commissioner of education may also institute such proceedings as are authorized under this article. The petition may be made in consequence of any action: 7. By any other official act or decision of any officer, school authorities, or meetings concerning any other matter under this chapter, or any other act pertaining to common schools."

In the words of the Commissioner, "[t]his grant of jurisdiction does not extend to acts or omissions of institutions of post-secondary education. The Commissioner explained that while the language of Education Law §310(7) “could literally, and if it stood alone, embrace much more than the common school classifications of the first six subdivisions, " the text do not stand alone and are "circumscribed and modified by the contextual words which precede and follow them.”

Citing Bd. of Educ. of City Sch. Dist. of City of Rome v. Ambach, 118 AD2d 932 and Application of Bowen, 17 AD2d 12, aff’d 13 NY2d 663, the Commissioner said courts have held that “the statute deals throughout with the common schools and, inferentially, ... it does not invest the Commissioner with carte blanche appellate jurisdiction in all controversies involving the Education Law,” the Commissioner dismissed Ms. Van Vleet's appeal.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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