Judge Allows Fascinating Church/State Case to Go Forward

A federal judge dismissed some claims but allowed the most important ones to go to court in a fascinating lawsuit over the use of public funds in East Ramapo, New York in private Jewish Yeshiva schools in the city. It’s a class action suit filed by 394 parents and students in the public school there.

The lawsuit can now confront several of the most divisive issues in East Ramapo, including the placement of Hasidic and other Orthodox students in private special-education schools at public expense, the alleged purchase of religious textbooks for private schools, and whether the school board tried to sell two schools at below-market rates.

She also allowed the lawsuit to look at whether the school board hired Long Island-based lawyer Albert D’Agostino in 2009 as part of a conspiracy to place special-education students in private schools in a manner that forfeits state reimbursements.

The allegations “suffice, at this stage, to show, at least plausibly, a tacit agreement,” Seibel said.

The school board is controlled by six Hasidic Jews, who have allegedly diverted Title I and Title III funds, which are intended to help low-achieving students and those who do not speak English well get caught up with their classmates. Title I funds may be used for private school students as well as public, but only for specific programs that are non-religious, like remedial language courses and such. About 21,000 Orthodox Jewish children in the community speak primarily Yiddish both at home and at school. The school board contracted with a company to provide remedial educational services in after-school programs in both the public and private schools in the area using federal funds from those two programs.

The plaintiffs allege that those funds were used to by religious textbooks for the Yeshiva and much more. Should be fascinating to see this case play out.

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  • Sounds like a really interesting case. Thanks for posting about it.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    About 21,000 Orthodox Jewish children in the community speak primarily Yiddish both at home and at school.

    Somebody alert the English-Only teabag brigade – this calls for waving misspelled signs immediately!

  • amyjane

    Nobody goes against the Orthodox -Hasidic Jewish community in Rockland County because they vote as a solid block. That’s why the school board is all Hasidic but there are no Orthodox kids in the public school at all. They work to keep their taxes down at the expense of the largely black and Hispanic students.

  • mxh

    I don’t understand how this case is fascinating. It’s just another case of religious nuts using public funds for their own purposes. It just happens to be a different religion. It’s no different than Christian fundamentalists overtaking a school board and giving their religion special treatment.