Press Release

Jewish parents & schools fight in court to protect children with disabilities California politicians in legal fight for denying special education benefits to Jewish families & schools

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

Group of students and adults gather at rally before oral argument in Loffman v. CA Dept of Education holding signs that say "Education Equality," "Every student matters" and "Every kid deserves a chance"

WASHINGTON A group of Jewish parents and schools were in federal court on Friday fighting a California law that excludes religious schools from receiving special education funding to serve children with disabilities. Loffman v. California Department of Education involves a group of parents whose faith compels them to send their children with disabilities to Orthodox Jewish schools, and two Orthodox Jewish schools that want to welcome children with disabilities. California politicians, however, have made this impossible by blocking federal and state special education funding from being used at private religious schools. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, with the support of the Orthodox Union, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, is supporting these parents and schools in their fight 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 the program.  

“We want to educate our son in a safe, supportive learning environment that meets his unique needs and upholds our shared religious beliefs,” said Chaya and Yoni Loffman, Jewish parents of a child with disabilities in Los Angeles. “Unfortunately, California is forcing our family to choose between raising our son in our faith tradition and providing him the help he needs to reach his full potential.” 

Chaya and Yoni Loffman, Fedora Nick and Morris Taxon, and Sarah and Ariel Perets are Orthodox Jewish parents who believe that their children with disabilities should go to schools that provide both an education that allows them to reach their full potential and one 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 California, an initiative of the Orthodox Union that advocates for equal funding in nonpublic schools, 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 approve. 

“California’s campaign against Jewish children with disabilities and the schools they want to attend is shameful and unconstitutional,” said Laura Wolk Slavis, counsel at Becket. “We argued in court on Friday that the government cannot exclude religious people and schools from a public benefit simply because they are religious.” 

A decision from the federal district court is expected in the coming months. 

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.