151 Misc.2d 60, Grumet v. New York State Educ. Dept.

Citation:151 Misc.2d 60, 579 N.Y.S.2d 1004
Party Name:Grumet v. New York State Educ. Dept.
Case Date:January 22, 1992
Court:Supreme Court of New York

Page 60

151 Misc.2d 60

579 N.Y.S.2d 1004

Louis GRUMET, Individually and as Executive Director of the

New York State School Boards Association, Inc.; Albert W.

Hawk, Individually and as President of the New York State

School Boards Association, Inc., and the New York State

School Boards Association, Inc., Plaintiffs,

v.

NEW YORK STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT; Thomas Sobol, as

Commissioner of the New York State Education Department;

New York State Board of Regents; Edward V. Regan, as New

York State Comptroller; Emanuel Axelrod, as District

Superintendent of Orange-Ulster Boces; Board of Education of the Kiryas Joel Village School District; Board of

Education of the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District, Defendants.

Supreme Court of New York

January 22, 1992.

[579 N.Y.S.2d 1005] New York State School Boards Ass'n Legal Dept., Jay Worona, Gen. Counsel, (Cynthia Plumb Fletcher, Pilar Sokol, of counsel), Albany, for

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plaintiffs.

Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin, (David G. Webbert, of counsel), Washington, D.C., Parisi, DeLorenzo, Gordon, Pasquariello & Weiskopf, P.C. (Eric A. Tepper, of counsel Local Counsel), Schenectady, for Kiryas Joel Village School Dist.

Robert Abrams, Atty. Gen., (Mary Ellen Clerkin, of counsel), Albany, for New York State.

Ingerman, Smith, Greenberg, Gross, Richmond, Heidelberger & Reich, (Lawrence W. Reich, of counsel), Northport, for Monroe-Woodbury.

New York State United Teachers, Gerard John DeWolf, Sr. Counsel, Albany, for amicus curiae.

LAWRENCE E. KAHN, Justice.

This litigation challenges the constitutionality of Chapter 748 of the Laws of 1989, which created the Kiryas Joel Village School District. While presenting issues which are new and distinct, it continues years of litigation, which in one form or another, all emanate from attempts to obtain public funding for special education programs for children of the Satmar Hasidic Sect. Much of the history of the relationship between the present litigants has been documented by the Court of Appeals in Board of Educ. of Monroe-Woodbury Cent. School Dist. v. Wieder, 72 N.Y.2d 174, 531 N.Y.S.2d 889, 527 N.E.2d 767. Therein, the issue to be determined was whether special services to the handicapped children of the Village of Kiryas Joel was statutorily required to be provided in the public schools or in religiously affiliated private schools. Ultimately, the court determined that the applicable provisions of the Education Law did not require the Board of Education of the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District to offer such services only in regular public school classes. The court also rejected the contention that such services must be provided to non-public school children on the premises of the schools they normally attend. In its previous decision, the Court of Appeals set forth relevant background information, stating that:

"Kiryas Joel is a community of Hasidic Jews. Apart from separation from the outside community, separation of the sexes is observed within the Village. Yiddish is the principle language of Kiryas Joel; television, radio and English language publications are not in general use. The dress and appearance of the Hasidim are distinctive--the boys, for example, wear long side curls, head coverings and special garments, and both males and females follow a prescribed dress code. Education is also different: Satmarer children generally do not attend public schools, but

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attend their own religiously affiliated schools within Kiryas Joel." (p. 179 and 180, 531 N.Y.S.2d 889, 527 N.E.2d 767).

In an acknowledged attempt to compromise the ongoing dispute, the challenged statute created a school district whose boundaries are literally contiguous with the incorporated Village of Kiryas Joel, and provided for the election of trustees with the powers and duties of trustees of a union free school district. A Board of Education was thereafter elected and the school properties within the boundaries of the new district were transferred off the rolls of the Monroe-Woodbury School District, effective July 1, 1990. The only [579 N.Y.S.2d 1006] "public" school within the new District provides educational services for handicapped children.

The instant declaratory judgment action was commenced on or about January 19, 1990 and challenges the creation of the school district on constitutional grounds, asserting that it violates the principles of separation of church and state. Plaintiffs also assert that the legislation violates equal protection guarantees. Originally, the New York State Department of Education and other state officials, including the Comptroller, were named as defendants. Motions to intervene were made by the Board of Education of the Monroe-Woodbury School District and the Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District. Those motions were granted by the court and a second amended complaint was served. By so-ordered stipulation, the action was discontinued against the State defendants with the recognition that the Attorney General would continue to appear in support of the constitutionality of the statute (Executive Law, section 71). Presently, plaintiffs have moved for summary judgment seeking a declaration that Chapter 748 is unconstitutional. The Attorney General and the party-defendants have all cross-moved for summary judgment seeking a declaration of constitutionality.

The legislation which has generated the present controversy is straightforward. It provides that:

"The territory of the Village of...

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