Board Of Education Of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet

512 U.S. 687 (1994)


Satmar private religious schools do not offer any distinctive services to handicapped children, who are entitled under state and federal law to special education services even when enrolled in private schools. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. After Aguilar v. Felton, 473 U.S. 402 (1985), children from Kiryas Joel who needed special education were forced to attend public schools outside the village, which their families found highly unsatisfactory. Parents of most of these children withdrew them from the Monroe-Woodbury secular schools, citing 'the panic, fear, and trauma [the children] suffered in leaving their own community and being with people whose ways were so different,' and some sought administrative review of the public school placements. The New York Legislature passed a statute which provided that the Village of Kiryas Joel 'is constituted a separate school district, . . . and shall have and enjoy all the powers and duties of a union free school district. . . .' The Kiryas Joel Village School District currently runs only a special education program for handicapped children. The other village children have stayed in their parochial schools, relying on the new school district only for transportation, remedial education, and health and welfare services. Several of the neighboring districts send their handicapped Hasidic children into Kiryas Joel so that two-thirds of the full-time students in the village's public school come from outside. In all, the new district serves just over 40 full-time students and two or three times that many parochial school students on a part-time basis. The New York State School Boards Association and respondents Grumet and Hawk brought this action against the State Education Department and various state officials, challenging Chapter 748 under the national and state constitutions as an unconstitutional establishment of religion. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court ruled for the plaintiffs (respondents here), finding that the statute failed all three prongs of the test in Lemon v. Kurtzman, and was thus unconstitutional under both the National and State Constitutions. A divided Appellate Division affirmed on the ground that Chapter 748 had the primary effect of advancing religion, in violation of both constitutions, and the state Court of Appeals affirmed on the federal question, while expressly reserving the state constitutional issue.