Judge rules in favor of Hasidic families in busing dispute with Washingtonville schools – Times Herald-Record

Posted By on November 21, 2021

Hasidic families in Blooming Grove won a court victory on Thursday when a judge ruled that Washingtonville School District must bus their children to their religious schools on days when they are open but the public schools are closed.

State Supreme Court Justice Peter Lynch of Albany ruled that the district had failed to meet its transportation obligation under state law by providing busing to nonpublic school students only on days when its own schools were open.

Lynch also went further by invalidating the state guidelines Washingtonville followed in refusing to provide transportation when its schools were closed. That decision could affect transportation practices or future court cases in other districts with large numbers of children attending religious schools.

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The ruling resulted from a lawsuit filed in July by the United Jewish Community of Blooming Grove, agroup representing several hundred Hasidic families who have moved to the village of South Blooming Grove and nearby in recent years. The group's leaders had demanded busing to Hasidic schools in and around the neighboring village of Kiryas Joel on 20 days this school year when Washingtonville is closed.

Lynch had already signaled in August that the plaintiffs would likely win the case by issuing a preliminary ruling to require busing on those dates, starting two days before Washingtonville schools opened on Sept. 1.

The next calendar conflicts fall next week on the days before and after Thanksgiving. Washingtonville schools are closed and the three Hasidic school systems the United Talmudical Academy, Sheri Torah and Bnei Yoel are open on those days.

State law requires all school districts to provide transportation to children attending private or religious schools within 15 miles of their homes. But the state Education Department has long interpreted that mandate to apply only on days when the public schools are open.

As he declared in August, Lynch found that reading "self-serving" and in violation of the districts' busing responsibility. He ordered Washingtonville to provide busing to nonpublic schools on all days that they are open for instruction.

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council, an advocacy group, broke the news of Lynch's decision on Thursday, saying it could affect busing for yeshiva students in Suffern School District in Rockland County "and in other districts where board members and administrations are abusing their powers against Yeshiva students."

Though enrollmentfigures for the current school year are not yet available, Washingtonville had about 600 children attending Hasidic schools last year, and neighboring Monroe-Woodbury had about 1,340 children in those schools. Monroe-Woodbury recently hired two new bus companies to restore transportation to the Hasidic schools after a flood of complaintsfrom parents about previous contractors.

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Judge rules in favor of Hasidic families in busing dispute with Washingtonville schools - Times Herald-Record

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