Press Release

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

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

Three children holding signs at the Loffman v. CA DOE rally. Signs say "Equal treatment of Jewish students," "Every Student Matters," and "Equal Access for Special Education."

WASHINGTON – A group of Jewish families and schools asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday to strike down a California law that excludes religious families from accessing special education funding for their children with disabilities. In Loffman v. California Department of Education, a group of 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. After a lower court ruled against the families and schools last week, Becket, with the support of Teach Coalition—an initiative of the Orthodox Union that advocates for equal funding in nonpublic schoolshas asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to stop California from denying 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 participate in this program.  

“Our son has to overcome many obstacles to have his unique needs met in the classroom, and California is making it even harder for him because of our faith,” said Chaya and Yoni Loffman, Jewish parents of a child with a disability in Los Angeles. “We pray that the court will stop this attack on children like ours and allow special education funding for every child with disabilities in California.”  

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. 

“We are proud to fight alongside these parents, who have been forced to grapple with this unimaginable situation,” said Maury Litwack, Founder, Teach Coalition. “All children with disabilities, regardless of their religious beliefs, should have the same opportunity to receive a quality education and parents should never have to compromise on how or where their child is educated just because they are religious. That’s what we’re fighting for.” 

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 want to see. 

“California is waging an indefensible and needless campaign against kids with disabilities just because they come from religious families,” said Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “We have asked the Ninth Circuit to strike down this law and ensure that all kids with disabilities receive the care and support they need to thrive.” 

Oral argument at the Ninth Circuit is expected to take place this winter.  

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Ryan Colby atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7219.Interviews can be arranged in English, Mandarin, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.