After years of ignoring individual complaints, New York City reportedly says it will investigate a complaint from 52 parents, graduates and former teachers of haredi yeshivas that alleges dozens of Brooklyn haredi yeshivas (and one in Queens, as well) violate New York State education law by inadequately teaching secular subjects or by failing to teach them at all.
52 Anonymous Haredim Sign Complaint About Lack Of Secular Education In NYC Haredi Schools, City Reportedly To Investigate
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
After years of ignoring individual complaints, New York City reportedly says it will investigate a complaint from 52 parents, graduates and former teachers of haredi yeshivas that alleges dozens of Brooklyn haredi yeshivas (and one in Queens, as well) violate New York State education law by inadequately teaching secular subjects or by failing to teach them at all, city officials told the Jewish Week.
The complaint was sent to city education officials on Monday. It reportedly alleges that in 39 haredi boys yeshivas, boys over the age of 13 get no secular education while boys aged 7 through 13 get about 90 minutes per day (except Friday) of English and math. But those younger boys get no science, history or other secular subjects.
By law, private schools like haredi yeshivas must provide a “substantially equivalent” education to what public schools offer.
“We take seriously our responsibility to ensure that all students in New York receive an appropriate education, and we will investigate all allegations that are brought to our attention,” Harry Hartfield, a New York City Department of Education spokesman, told the Jewish Week.
The complaint was organized by Yaffed (Young Advocates for Fair Education), which fights for increased secular education in haredi schools. It asks city officials to investigated the haredi schools named in the complaint and help them improve their secular education programs.
Yaffed’s attorney, the noted civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, wrote a letter in Decemeber to city and state education officials that noted the dismal quality of secular education in haredi schools and asked for a meeting. Not one of the officials who received the letter replied, the first time in Siegel’s long career this has happened.
When asked by the media about Siegel’s letter, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) claimed it was unable to investigate without complaints about specific schools. (As FailedMessiah.com noted, officials had received complaints about specific haredi yeshivas in the recent past unconnected to Yaffed, but chose not to act.)
In response to the media reports about the city’s position, in February Yaffed’s head sent city and state officials a list of 27 haredi yeshivas. Again, not one official responded.
“This is a real issue and these are officials who are supposed to follow the law and they’re not,” Siegel, a former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, reportedly said.
Yaffed will not release the names of the haredim who signed its most recent complaint for fear they will be harassed and ostracized by the haredi community, and Yaffed asked the officials who received the complaint to withhold the names, as well.
An unnamed Yaffed supporter, whose name was withheld by the Jewish Week to protect him and his family from harassment and shunning, sends his children to the same Brooklyn yeshiva he graduated from.
“The teachers are very unqualified — people from the community with hardly any English knowledge. My kids are really top-notch students. Each one of their tests, all their marks are top marks and it’s such a waste that they don’t get any [secular] education,” the unidentified man told the Jewish Week earlier this year.
The behavior of this haredi man – who sends his children to a school he knows to be drastically inadequate while at the same time refusing to be publicly identified as someone who wants more secular education in haredi schools – points to a serious problem Yaffed will have if it moves to sue the city and state as it has promised to do if the education law is not enforced. Who will sign a lawsuit that will seemingly have to make public the names of the plaintiffs?
“People are afraid that their children are going to be thrown out of the school. Even with what their concerns are, they want to be there, they want their children to be there. They just want their children’s education to be better,” Siegel reportedly said.
Yaffed has a new hotline where people can leave complaints about specific schools or get information about Yaffed. The number is 646-350-0075.