Blooming Grove Hasidic Families Win Washingtonville Bus Deal

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

State Supreme Court Judge Peter Lynch of Albany ruled that the district failed to meet its transportation obligation under state law by providing buses to students in non-public schools only on days when its own schools were open.

Lynch also went further by overturning state guidelines Washingtonville followed in refusing to provide transportation when its schools were closed. This ruling 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 follows a lawsuit filed in July by the United Jewish Community of Blooming Grove, a group representing several hundred Hasidic families who have moved to and near the village of South Blooming Grove in recent years. Group leaders had demanded buses to Hasidic schools in and around the nearby village of Kiryas Joel for 20 days this school year when Washingtonville is closed.

Lynch previously reported in August that the plaintiffs would likely win the case by making a preliminary ruling to require bus transportation on those dates, starting two days before Washingtonville schools opened on September 1.

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

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

As he said in August, Lynch found the reading “selfish” and in violation of the districts’ bus responsibility. He ordered Washingtonville to provide buses to non-public schools on any day they are open for instruction.

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council, an advocacy group, announced the news of Lynch’s decision on Thursday, saying it could affect bus transportation for yeshiva students in the Suffern school district in the county. of Rockland “and other districts where board members and administrations abuse their powers against Yeshiva students.”

Although enrollment figures for the current school year are not yet available, Washingtonville had around 600 children attending Hasidic schools last year, and the nearby town of Monroe-Woodbury had approximately 1,340 children in those schools. . Monroe-Woodbury recently hired two new bus companies to restore transport to Hasidic schools after a flood of complaints from parents about former contractors.

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