Family Court Improper Forum for School Challenge

, New York Law Journal

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Orange County Family Court is not the proper forum for a school district's challenge to allowing a Brooklyn teen to switch residences so he can attend high school in upstate Middletown, a judge has ruled.

Family Court Judge Andrew Bovina dismissed the application by the Middletown School District against letting the youth's mother, Rhonda Truesdale, designate her sister Gia Nelson of Middletown as guardian. The change in guardianship is designed to allow Truesdale's son, identified as "E.T.N.," to attend Middletown High School, according to Matter of E.T.N., G-4581-13.

Middletown Superintendent Kenneth Eastwood sought to intervene in the guardianship proceeding "to protect the limited resources available to our resident students and the integrity of our residency policy."

Bovina ruled from Goshen that Eastwood's petition is based solely on the cost of taking in E.T.N. The judge said the school district failed to show how its position would serve the best interests of the child, which he said is the standard Family Court uses when deciding guardianship proceedings.

Bovina said state Education Law §310 establishes an administrative appeal for the state education commissioner to resolve student residency disputes.

When the parties who "care most about a child agree as to a particular disposition for a child"—in this case E.T.N.'s mother and aunt—"it is a waste of precious judicial resources to try a case in Family Court to determine whether a child is or is not a resident of a school district," the judge said.

Howard Miller of Bond, Schoeneck & King in Garden City represented the district. The Children's Rights Society of Goshen argued for Nelson and Truesdale.

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