The N.Y.C. Board of Ed Lives On, If Only to Be Sued

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On Jan. 9, 2003, Jamie Perez was slashed by two fellow students at Evander Childs High School in the Bronx. He recovered, and his mother, Nancy Torres, sued the City of New York for negligence, claiming lax security.

Her lawyer, Richard J. Katz, might ordinarily have filed suit against the Board of Education, except that a year before the assault, the State Legislature had voted to vest the mayor with the power to appoint the schools chancellor. As part of the new governance, a Panel for Educational Policy was created, a majority of whose members the mayor appointed.

City lawyers insisted nonetheless that Ms. Torres had sued the wrong party — that the education board was still liable. But a Bronx judge ruled that “in light of the wholesale transfer of power and responsibility from the Board of Education to the mayor, the city may not now shield itself from liability.” An appellate court, however, reversed the decision, in effect voiding Ms. Torres’s claim.

“The case got dismissed,” Mr. Katz said. “It was a travesty.">

A separate case now pending before the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, raises the same issue of liability in a case involving a suit against the city’s school system.

Many lawyers and their clients have discovered that if you have a legal complaint against New York’s public school system, you cannot fight City Hall.

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