WASHINGTON (Apr. 5)
The New York State Supreme Court has dealt another blow to attempts to allow a Chasidic Jewish community in New York to set up its own school district.
The court ruled that the latest bid by state lawmakers to create a special school district for Kiryas Joel — an Orange County, N.Y. village whose residents are all Satmar Chasidim — violates the separation of church and state.
Twice before courts have struck down legislators’ attempts to carve out an autonomous school district for Kiryas Joel so that the community can control the special education of its students and the $3 million in state aid it qualifies for each year.
The attempt to create the district is a “clear, unequivocal, but impermissible favoritism, promotion, preference and endorsement by the state of the Satmar community of Kiryas Joel,” State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi ruled.
He ordered that the Kiryas Joel school district be closed immediately and that nearby public school districts take over the instruction of its children.
The Kiryas Joel school district, which has said its disabled students do not learn well in non-Chasidic schools, will likely appeal the decision, according to Nathan Lewin, the district’s lawyer.
The American Jewish Congress hailed the decision, saying “once again, what the legislature has created for political reasons, the courts have undone for constitutional reasons.”