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New York Yeshivas File Civil Rap Vs. Education Regulations

By 10/12/2022 12:20 PMNo CommentsBy YidInfo Staff

A lawsuit has been brought by yeshiva organizations in New York against the new legislation governing private school curricula because they violate state law and the state and federal constitutions and are biased against yeshivas.

As stated in the lawsuit filed on Sunday in the state Supreme Court in Albany against Board of Regents Chancellor Lester Young and Education Commissioner Betty Rosa by a group that includes Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools (PEARLS), Agudat Yisrael of New York, and others, “Yeshivas are subject to unequal treatment and are threatened with closure for offering the sort of culturally and linguistically sustaining education the NYSED [New York State Education Department] lauds in public schools.”

The regulations, approved by the Board of Regents last month, demand that all private schools provide a secular education that is “at least substantially equivalent” to that provided in public schools.

There are several ways to accomplish this, including having a high school that administers the Regents exams, being accredited by a recognized accrediting body, or using tests that SED has approved to show student academic progress.

If a school is unable to qualify using one of these approaches, it may nevertheless demonstrate substantial equivalency using the yeshivas’ least preferred method: having the LSA review and approve the school’s curriculum (the local school authority, defined as the school’s chancellor in New York City and the local school board elsewhere).

More than 350,000 comments were sent during the required 60-day public comment period after the regulations were initially made public in March last year.

The majority of these responses were from yeshiva graduates who opposed the rules.

The Board of Regents, however, put the regulations up for a vote in September with essentially no amendments, and they were approved unanimously and with minimal discussion.

According to the lawsuit, “the public comment process was a fraud.”

“The public comment period is not an end in itself, but rather a means by which the agency is required to receive input from the public and consider reasonable alternatives,” the suit claims.

While nearly all Catholic and independent private schools, but not all yeshivas, will qualify for substantial equivalency through one of the alternate pathways, the lawsuit contends that only yeshivas will be subject to the intrusive LSA reviews.

It claims that the new regulations impose obligations and restrictions on yeshivas “not found in other schools.”

LSA reviews will take into account a school’s instruction of the core subjects of English, math, science, and social studies as well as patriotism and citizenship, history, the importance and implications of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the New York State Constitution, and their amendments, New York State history, and civics, physical education, health instruction regarding alcohol, drug, and tobacco abuse, and highway safety.

It is unclear if the school must teach these subjects or if some may be skipped or substituted.

According to the lawsuit, New York is committed to fostering linguistic and cultural diversity, but only in public schools, not in the Chassidish yeshivas, where Yiddish is spoken as a first language.

Plaintiffs cite a SED guidance document previously distributed to public school administrators and other officials, encouraging them to “work to encourage cultural pluralism and not cultural assimilation” and to “assist education stakeholders in creating student-centered learning environments that affirm cultural identities.”

“The responsibility of education is not only to prevent the exclusion of historically silenced, erased, and disenfranchised groups but also to assist in the promotion and perpetuation of cultures, languages, and ways of knowing that have been devalued, suppressed, and imperiled by years of educational, social, political, economic neglect and other forms of oppression,” the document said.

According to the lawsuit, the new requirements demand that “English is the language of instruction for common branch topics” at yeshivas and other private institutions that must demonstrate considerable equivalency using the LSA investigation technique.

Plaintiffs claim that the new regulations have resulted in “more onerous standards being imposed on nonpublic schools than on public schools.”

Since the late 19th century, private schools in New York State have been mandated by law to deliver an education that is “at least substantially comparable” to that provided in public schools, although the law has never specified how substantial equivalency is evaluated.

State officials started developing detailed criteria for pre-certifying that a school is substantially equal in 2015 in response to claims made by certain former New York City yeshiva students that they had not gotten a substantially equivalent secular education.

Following two attempts by the state to pass regulations, the Board of Regents approved these new rules on September 13.

In addition, the lawsuit claims that the due process and equal protection sections of the Fourteenth Amendment and comparable provisions in the New York State Constitution have been violated.

The action this week is probably only the start of a protracted legal struggle that could end up in the United States. High Court.

The current Court is considered the most pro-religious liberty in generations, even though court precedence on parental rights in schooling is divided.

In addition, the lawsuit claims that the due process and equal protection sections of the Fourteenth Amendment and comparable provisions in the New York State Constitution have been violated.

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bobby bracros

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