Jewish parents are suing California for allegedly discriminating against their disabled children

Three Jewish families are suing the California Department of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction in a bid to secure equal funding for their disabled children’s private education.

The lawsuit, filed on Monday, claims that California violated the First and Fourteenth Amendment by withholding public education funds from families purely on religious grounds.

“It takes a special kind of chutzpah to deny Jewish kids with disabilities equal access to special education benefits,” said Eric Rassbach, the plaintiffs’ attorney and senior counsel for Becket, a legal institute specializing in religious freedom cases.

“California politicians can end this unlawful discrimination the easy way or the hard way,” Rassbach’s press statement continued. “Either they change the law that is hurting children with disabilities, or they can shamefully fight in court for the right to discriminate.”

As detailed in the suit, the California Education Code stipulates that if a disabled student doesn’t have access to an appropriate special education program through the public system, the state will pay their private school tuition.

However, if California refuses to do so if the student’s private school of choice is religious.

The lawsuit claims that the plaintiffs “believe that enrolling their children in Orthodox Jewish schools is a religious obligation,” and that by denying them access to public funds, California interfered with the parents’ “right to direct the religious upbringing of their children.”

The suit also references several recent Supreme Court cases in which withholding public education funds from religious schools was ruled unconstitutional. These cases include Carson v. Makin in 2022 and Espinoza v. Montana in 2020.

Orthodox Union, one of the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish organizations that represents hundreds of congregations and Jewish schools, is also supporting plaintiffs.