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MOUNT SINAI UNION FREE SCH. DIST. v. BOARD OF EDUC

October 13, 1993

MOUNT SINAI UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION PORT JEFFERSON PUBLIC SCHOOLS, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEONARD D. WEXLER

 WEXLER, District Judge

 In 1985, continuing a long-standing arrangement, the Mount Sinai Union Free School District ("Mt. Sinai") and the Port Jefferson Union Free School District ("Port Jefferson") entered into a contract whereby Mt. Sinai sent its high school students to Port Jefferson for education. In late 1988, because of a souring of relationships between the two school districts and an increase in Mt. Sinai high school age students, Mt. Sinai voters approved the construction of a home high school. In 1989, the legislature of the State of New York enacted § 3014-c of the New York Education Law. This statute essentially requires that when a sending district like Mt. Sinai assumes responsibility for the education of its own students, it must consider teachers in a receiving district like Port Jefferson, who were responsible for teaching those students, employees of the sending district. Moreover, in the event the sending district does not require the services of all the teachers from the receiving district, the sending district must place those excessed teachers on a preferred eligibility list.

 Mt. Sinai, its School Board, certain Mt. Sinai parents, students, taxpayers and teachers, all understandably upset that Mt. Sinai will be required to hire Port Jefferson teachers, brought the above-referenced action alleging a multitude of federal and state constitutional violations. Besides the Port Jefferson Union Free School District, plaintiffs name as defendants its School Board; Philip J. Magnarella ("Magnarella"), Port Jefferson's Superintendent of Schools in both his official and individual capacities; and certain Port Jefferson teachers who instituted an Article 78 proceeding against Port Jefferson and Mt. Sinai to enforce § 3014-c.

 Presently before the Court are motions to dismiss by the teacher defendants pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or in the alternative to abstain from hearing this case. Additionally, plaintiffs move for partial summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the ground that § 3014-c violates the Contract Clause and Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Federal and State Constitutions. Finally, both the Port Jefferson School Board and Magnarella move for summary judgment with respect to the claims brought against them pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

 For the reasons stated below, this Court rejects the defendant teachers' arguments that abstention is called for in this case. However, this Court does find merit with their arguments that the teacher, student/parent, and taxpayer plaintiffs lack standing to bring this lawsuit. Accordingly, all claims brought by these plaintiffs are dismissed. This Court also finds that all remaining federal constitutional claims, except the Contract Clause claim, brought by Mt. Sinai and its School Board (the only remaining plaintiffs) are so insubstantial as to merit dismissal. However, although the Contract Clause claim does not merit dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), this Court grants summary judgment in favor of defendants with respect to this claim. Further, both Magnarella's and the Port Jeffersons's School Board's motion for summary judgment with respect to the claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is granted. Finally, because there are no remaining federal claims, this Court will not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any of the remaining state claims. Therefore, those claims are dismissed as well.

 I. BACKGROUND

 This case arises out of a dispute between Mt. Sinai and Port Jefferson. Because Mt. Sinai had few high school age students, it contracted with Port Jefferson to send its high school age students to Port Jefferson for education, rather than maintain a home high school. New York Education Law § 2040 permitted the parties to reach by private agreement, a series of written contracts, which set out the rights and obligations of the respective school districts with reference to this arrangement. Indeed, Mt. Sinai sent its high school age students to Port Jefferson for education for over fifty years.

 Subsequently, on or about June 26, 1987, the New York State Commissioner of Education voided the sixth year (1990-91) of the tuition contract, determining in an administrative proceeding that § 2040 only permits private parties to enter tuition contracts lasting up to five years. Throughout the life of the contract, Mt. Sinai's high school age population was growing, while Port Jefferson's high school age population was shrinking. Thus, by the 1983-84 school year, over one half of the high school students attending the Port Jefferson High School were from Mt. Sinai.

 Plaintiffs allege that despite the fact that Mt. Sinai students represented more than one half of Port Jefferson's high school population, the Port Jefferson School Board and Magnarella refused any input from Mt. Sinai or its School Board with respect to decisions affecting the education of Mt. Sinai students. Additionally, plaintiffs claim that Mt. Sinai students were discriminated against as a group in the Port Jefferson school system. Plaintiffs further allege that the Port Jefferson School Board and Magnarella were made aware of this discrimination yet refused to investigate or correct the situation.

 During this time period, the New York State Department of Education and other agencies recommended that merger of the two school districts might present the best solution to the controversy that was developing between the two districts. Plaintiffs allege that while they supported such a course of action, Port Jefferson rejected the proposed merger. Partially as a result of Port Jefferson's refusal of the merger proposal, Mt. Sinai announced that it would pursue the option of building its own high school so that it could terminate its relationship with Port Jefferson.

 On or about December 13, 1988, the residents of Mt. Sinai approved the construction of the new high school. Sometime in 1989, construction contracts went forward and Mt. Sinai projected that the high school would be completed in time for the 1992-93 school year. Thus, Mt. Sinai still needed to make some provision for the continuing education of its high school students for the two school years 1990-91 and 1991-92, years which were not encompassed by either the 1985 tuition contract with Port Jefferson, or the anticipated completion date of its own high school.

 On or about January of 1989, the Mt. Sinai School Board and the Port Jefferson School Board, in part through its superintendent, reached an agreement in principle as to a new tuition contract to cover the two school years. However, plaintiffs allege that despite repeated demands that the final revised version of the contract be delivered for execution, the contract was never delivered or reduced to writing. One of the terms agreed to in principle was that Mt. Sinai would offer up to fifteen teaching slots to teachers from the Port Jefferson school district, as long as Mt. Sinai could hire the individuals it thought were best qualified for the positions.

 While Mt. Sinai was waiting to receive the contract, Port Jefferson School Board and its superintendent and the New York State United Teachers, initiated and guided legislation, which eventually became Education Law § 3014-c. *fn1" This legislation essentially protects the tenure and other rights of teachers in situations where a school district "takes back" its tuition students, from what was deemed to be the "receiving district." The statute provides that where the "sending district" assumes the education of students formerly provided by a receiving district,

 
each teacher employed by the receiving district in the education of such children at the time of such take back by the sending district shall be considered an employee of such sending district with the same tenure ...

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