Appeals court reverses ruling in favor of Hasidic families in Washingtonville busing case – Times Herald-Record

Posted By on June 4, 2022

An appeals court panel has reversed a ruling that would have forced Washingtonville School District to begin busing Hasidic children to their religious schools on days when the public schools are closed.

In a decision on Thursday, four Appellate Division judges in Albany supported the district's policy of driving students to nonpublic schools only when its own schools are open, and the state guidance on which that policy was based. The lower-court ruling in November that extended that obligation skewed the intent of state law and "would lead to unreasonable results," the judges found.

"The Legislature could not have intended to require school districts to transport nonpublic school students in the summer, on weekends, on state or federal holidays, or on days when public schools are closed for weather-related or other emergency reasons, none of which would be foreclosed by Supreme Court's interpretation," the court ruled.

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The reversal was a setback for Blooming Grove's growing Hasidic population and a victory for the school district, which had argued it had no legal duty to bus students to private and religious schools during its recesses and on holidays. There were 20 days this school year on which Washingtonville schools were closed and Hasidic schools in and around Kiryas Joel were open.

A state Supreme Court judge in Albany made an initial ruling in favor of the United Jewish Community of Blooming Grove - the group that sued for more busing on behalf of Hasidic parents - in August, shortly before the first of those added busing days for Washingtonville.

But that preliminary injunction and his final decision supporting the plaintiffs weresuspended after the district appealed those rulings, sparing Washingtonville from having to comply during this school year.

In a statement Thursday, Washingtonville officials said their district's policy of busing students to nonpublic schools only when its own schools are open has been unchanged for at least 15 years.

"This policy is identical to the non-public school transportation policies and practices of school districts throughout New York State" and is consistent with state law, Education Department guidance and past court decisions, the district wrote.

Washingtonville has had a large influx of Hasidic families in recent years, particularly in the village of South Blooming Grove. The district now has more than 800 children who attend Hasidic schools and must be bused to them at Washingtonville's expense under state law.

Neighboring Monroe-Woodbury School District also has a growing population of Hasidic students that it must bus. State records show that more than 1,500 children living in Monroe-Woodbury attendreligious schools located in Kiryas Joel and just outside the village borders.

The United Jewish Community sued Washingtonville in July after the district failed to comply with its demands for additional busing days. The group argued that transportation was a minimal expectation for families that pay school property taxes but don't use the public schools.

The plaintiffs also argued their request for 20 more busing days would pose no additional cost for the district because Hasidic schools are closed for religious holidays and require no busing on roughly the same number of days. The district had contended in response that it would have to pay more to bus on those additional days.

Chris McKenna covers government and politics for the Times Herald-Record and USA Today Network. Reach him at

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Appeals court reverses ruling in favor of Hasidic families in Washingtonville busing case - Times Herald-Record

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