Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Judge Settles Nagging Question: The Board of Education is Not a Legal Entity

There are times when the law is not only difficult to understand it can create unnecessary hurdles for the unsuspecting. Witness the case of Evander Childs High School student, Jamie Perez.

Jamie was slashed in the face by two fellow students on January 9, 2003. An action was commenced on his behalf alleging negligence on the part of the defendant, City of New York. The City decided to move to dismiss the case, not on any meritorious defense but rather on the basis that if there is any liability for the slashing it is on the “Department/ Board of Education” and therefore the City is not liable.

Justice Edgar Walker in rejecting the City’s slick move found that, despite their argument to the contrary there is no legitimate separate legal entity that is the Department or Board of Education. Prior to Mayoral control in 2002 the Justice admitted that the City lawyers had a point but under the new rules nothing could be further from the truth.

The Court wrote, “while the Board of Education continues to exist (denominated in it's by-laws as the Panel for Educational Policy), its former powers and duties are exercised by the mayor through his or her employee, the chancellor. Furthermore, the only power granted to the Board with respect to litigation, contained in Education Law §2590-g(6) is to "[a]pprove litigation settlements only when such settlements would significantly impact the provision of educational services or programming within the district." [Emphasis added.] It is not argued or alleged that the outcome of this action would have any impact on the provision of educational services or programming.

“In addition to having no executive or administrative powers, the Board of Education has no offices and no staff. Education Law §2590-b(1)(a). The Court is left to wonder where and on whom one serves an entity which by law has no offices and no staff? More importantly, assuming that, in the appropriate circumstances, the Board of Education/Panel for Educational Policy may be sued, what is the liability of an entity which has no executive power, performs no administrative functions and is not authorized to supervise or administer the operations of any school with the city school district of the city of New York? Given its limited power, authority, and functions, what did the Board/Panel do or fail to do in this case? What ability did it have to prevent the plaintiff's injuries?“

Thus, by judicial opinion, it is now precedent; the Board of Education has no legitimate legal function. Did we need this case to prove that? See Perez v. City of New York, 2005 NY Slip Op 25374, Supreme Court, Bronx County, September 9, 2005.

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