Donahue V. Copiague Union Free School District

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Donahue v. Copiague Union Free School District
Court of Appeals of New York
June 14, 1979

Edward Donahue filed a complaint against the Copiague Union Free School District in Suffolk County Supreme Court for monetary damages for “educational malpractice” and the negligent breach of a constitutionally imposed duty to educate. Donahue claims that even though he received a certificate of graduation from Copiague Senior High School, he is not able to read. The Court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a cause of action. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court upheld the decision.

One interest in this case is Donahue’s inability to comprehend simple English, allegedly educational malpractice. It is a primary interest, short-term, and educational and psychological. Although the court agrees that he may be injured, the court should not entertain such claims. Control and management of educational affairs belongs to the Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education, not the court. The court will not make educational judgments or review day to day implementation of educational policies.

A secondary interest, short term and educational, is the right of students presently enrolled in public schools to enlist the aid of the Commissioner of Education in ensuring that they receive a proper education.

Another secondary interest, long-term, financial and political, is the interest of the court. The problems that would be raised by addressing a cause of action of educational malpractice would be formidable.

A final interest in this case is the constitutional duty to educate. It is a primary interest, long-term and educational. The State Constitution states that “legislature shall provide…system of free common schools, wherein all the children of this state may be educated.” The court decision states that this directive was not intended to impose a duty from a local school district to individual pupils, the breach of which would entitle a...
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