Press Release

California Jewish parents & schools ask federal appeals court to protect children with disabilities Ninth Circuit to decide if California politicians can deny special education benefits to Jewish families & schools

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

Child holding "Every Student Matters" sign at a Loffman v. CA rally on July 21, 2023

WASHINGTON – A group of Los Angeles-area Jewish families and schools asked the Ninth Circuit federal appeals court to strike down a California law that excludes religious families from special education funding for their children with disabilities and prevents religious schools from serving those students. In Loffman v. California Department of Education, Orthodox Jewish parents want to send their children with disabilities to Orthodox Jewish schools, and two Orthodox Jewish schools want to welcome children with disabilities. However, California politicians have blocked federal and state special education funding from being used at religious schools. In August, a Los Angeles federal district court ruled against the parents and schools, contrary to controlling Supreme Court precedent. Now, Becket and Teach Coalition, an initiative of the Orthodox Union that advocates for equal funding in nonpublic schools, have asked the Ninth Circuit to stop California from denying special education benefits to Jewish children with disabilities.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law ensuring that all children with disabilities can receive an education that meets their unique needs. IDEA funds help pay for the cost of staff training, special education programs, assistive technology, and other services. IDEA is designed to ensure all children can receive a free and appropriate education, including in private schools when public schools cannot meet their needs. However, California politicians exclude religious schools and the religious families they want to serve from even applying to receive this funding. 

“California should be helping disabled kids, not excluding them,” said Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “Children with disabilities should never be deprived of safe, compassionate learning environments just because they and their families are religious.” 

Chaya and Yoni Loffman, Fedora Nick and Morris Taxon, and Sarah and Ariel Perets are Orthodox Jewish parents who want to send their children with disabilities to schools that provide an education that allows them to reach their full potential and that is centered around their Jewish traditions and beliefs. Shalhevet High School and Yavneh Hebrew Academy are Jewish schools in Los Angeles that both provide an excellent education and want to serve the needs of children with disabilities. 

Becket and Teach Coalition are working together to ensure that these religious parents, their children with disabilities, and these religious schools are given equal access to special education funding—a result that, according to a recent poll, most Californians would support.  

“Sacramento got this wrong,” said Rassbach. “We are asking the Ninth Circuit to put things right and let our clients have both a Jewish education and the special education services they are entitled to.” 

Oral argument at the Ninth Circuit is expected to take place next year. 

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Ryan Colby atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7219.