August 24, 2021

Appeal to the Commissioner of Education involving a school board election, an alleged denial of "free speech," and failure to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement dismissed for procedural reasons

Noting that the 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, the Commissioner of Education dismissed an appeal involving challenges to a school board election for a number of reasons, including:

1. Failure to establish any grounds for relief: The Commissioner opined that the Petitioner failed to submit a reply or otherwise addressed certain assertions advance by the school district and thus failed to establish any basis for relief in connection with this claim.

2. Standing to assert rights on behalf of another: To the extent that the Petitioner sought to assert the individual rights of another person or his “surrogate” with respect such person serving as a poll watcher for Petitioner, the Commissioner held that Petitioner lacked standing to do so.

3. Free speech: The Commissioner, noting that Courts have held that a school board meeting is a limited public forum for purposes of the First Amendment and a school board's placing “Reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on speech in limited public fora comport with the Constitution ... [if] they are content-neutral, serve a significant government interest and leave open alternative channels for expression”, held that Petitioner failed to establish that the school board violated his right to free speech in connection with a board meeting. Here, said the Commissioner, "the district clerk asserts that “[Petitioner] has been prohibited from publicly speaking at regular board meetings only to the extent that he has commented on matters outside the agenda, has gone beyond the time allotted for comment, or has made pejorative and/or repetitive comments.”

4. Lack of Jurisdiction to consider a matter: Addressing Petitioners assertions concerning the school board failing to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement, the Commissioner, citing Civil Service Law §205 [5] [d], held that this issue "must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction," explaining that the Civil Service Law vests exclusive jurisdiction over complaints involving collective bargaining in the Public Employment Relations Board [“PERB”].*

* See, also, Matter of New York City Transit Authority v. New York StatePublic Employment Relations Board, et al., 19 NY3d 876.

Click HEREto access the full text of the Commissioner's decision in the appeal. 

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