Lawrence School District Faces First Amendment Lawsuit Claiming Orthodox Majority Violated Rights


lawrence-nyAttorneys for public-school children in the Lawrence School District filed a federal civil rights suit against the district, claiming the Orthodox Jewish majority on the school board has violated the First Amendment rights of parents and their children. The suit, filed in the Eastern District of New York, claims that the board of education has “unlawfully made laws and public policies regarding the establishment of religion,” according to court papers.

One major issue is the board’s March 2009 decision to close school Number 6 in Woodmere. This school was the newest and considered to be in the best physical condition. It is the only elementary school with grass fields, the only handicapped-accessible elementary school, and occupies the largest parcel of any of the schools, according to the plaintiffs’ attorney, Rob Agostisi of Garden City. He said the district’s own consultant expressed shock that the board would shut the district’s best school, and further suggested that the decision was based on the school’s high resale value, instead of educational considerations. District school buildings have been operating far beneath capacity for many years.

“It is now widely speculated that the board, consisting now of six out of seven Orthodox Jews who educate their own children in yeshivas, plan to sell or lease School Number 6 to a yeshiva,” Agostisi said in a statement. “Regardless of whether this happens, it is widely speculated that the board is set to use the sale proceeds to sponsor tax breaks to aid Orthodox families in paying yeshiva tuition.”

However, Albert D’Agostino, the attorney representing the Lawrence district, noted that the court denied a temporary restraining order requested by the plaintiffs Tuesday to keep the school open. The court said they had “little likelihood of success on the merits” of the case, D’Agostino said. He said the district “absolutely did not” violate the First Amendment rights of the public-school parents. And “there are no plans at this point with respect to the disposition of that school,” D’Agostino said. “There is a process that has to be gone through before any determination is made and the public will not only be aware, but they will participate in that process.” He said no decision has been made on whether the school will be sold but it is “doubtful” it would remain open. An August 18 court date is set to determine whether a preliminary injunction to keep it from being sold will be granted.

{ Newscenter}


  1. establishment of religion? Ha, they’re not trying to bring religion into a puiblic school; they’re trying to bring a public school to no longer be a public school, and hence not fall under that prohibition. I see nothing illegal here, just a smack to those who believe blindly in a child’s ‘right’ to tumah-education and other nonsense philosophies, but I dont see how there could be a tainoh even if they did takeh sell the school and use the money for their own purposes – they, being on a board entrusted with the right to use that money/property, are allowed to do that. The constitution places no limitations on the religious activities of individuals or private institutions, to the dismay of the liberals.

  2. Just what we need – another scandal.

    If nothing else, there is a major problem of mar’as ayin here.

    We must hope that the school board was not planning any underhanded deals, like selling or leasing the school to a yeshiva. If so, that would cause a lot of people not in our camp to say, “See – told you so. They’re a bunch of wheeler-dealers just out for themselves.”

    And how did a public school board get to have six out of seven frum members? Why do they care about what the public schools do? There seems to be an issue of noge’a b’davar here too.

    And why do I have to keep answering the questions of my non-frum friends about what a minority of self-appointed community “benefactors” do? Krumkeit is krumkeit, no matter kind of hat/shtreimel the person is wearing.

  3. Rachel R, you don’t have to believe every newspaper out there.

    As an aside: I took a group of campers to visit a police station in my large midwestern city last week. One of the cops is a nonfrum Yid and he proudly proclaimed to me how (he used the word ‘unzere’ meaning one of ours) in the past 30 years he’s been in the police force, he only dealt with 2 of ‘unzere’. I asked if he thought that was a good track record (as to me, even 2 is 2 too many!) but he said, “It’s VERY good!”
    (Also I’m not sure his ‘unzere’ would include whom I call ‘unzure’- it could be someone who is Jewish and unaffiliated too)
    The cops know the truth since they see the statistics. I wouldn’t trust every media outlet who are out there just to sell news. And anything shmutzing the names of Jews is news to them.
    Do Jews make mistakes? Yes, sometimes they do, but not half as much as the media makes it out to be!
    Have a little more pride in your fellow Yidden!
    The best way to answer your friends is for you to make a kiddush Hashem and show them by example that we are an ehrliche bunch. We’re not all selfish hypocrites as we’re made out to be! That should work better than all the fancy arguments you could think of.

  4. Rochel,, nothing wrong with frum people on the school board. We care about our property values, which are directly related to the quality of education the residents get. And there are resources we are fully entitled to as taxpayers.

    BUT, and this is a big but, any frum Jew who is on the board has to fully project that s/he is there to get the best quality education for the students who attend the public schools.

    Similarly, frum Jews on city councils, and even as mayors can do so much good. For Yidden of course, but also by making a great kiddush Hashem by projecting concern for all the residents.