All yeshivos in Rockland County affiliated with a newly formed group are reportedly in compliance, precluding the round of fire inspections the county executive was scheduled to begin Wednesday morning, the group’s attorney asserted in a statement.
County Executive Ed Day had agreed to wait until 9 a.m. Wednesday to begin checking 49 schools, the majority of them yeshivos, for safety issues. While inspections are a state responsibility, Day says he was given authority by the state education commissioner, an assertion that is disputed by the yeshivah group, called the School Religious Freedom Coalition.
However, Dennis Lynch, the group’s attorney, said Tuesday that every one of the yeshivos which required inspection were checked by Town of Ramapo officials. That negates the need for inspections by Day, a Republican elected by appealing to the anti-Orthodox Preserve Ramapo group.
“ALL coalition members have filed FSRs (fire safety report) with the Commissioner and there are no coalition members who now need inspections,” Lynch wrote. “This confirms that school safety was the only concern for our coalition members and not any political agenda advanced by County Executive Day as exhibited by his inflammatory words at his recent press conference. The Coalition has confirmed by its actions that school safety can be accomplished without political grandstanding.”
The vast majority of the schools did not need actual inspections; they merely had to file a form with the state.
The yeshivos had not objected to safety inspections but insisted that Day has proven that he is not focused on safety but on an overarching goal of reducing Rockland’s Orthodox population.
The group said they’ll accept inspections from anyone — the state, nearby counties, other fire departments, just not from Day, who had singled out the Orthodox community for harrassment.
Lynch said that the state Constitution allows only the state education commissioner or a local fire department to conduct inspections, not a county chief.
Lynch then said that in any case, yeshivos need time to prepare for inspections, saying they will be ready by Wednesday morning. Day accepted the timetable, calling it a sign the yeshivah group has “changed its mind.”
But as of late Tuesday, in a letter sent by the state, Day was ordered to remove from the list the vast majority of the schools who have since been inspected. All are expected to be removed by Wednesday morning.
Day initially attempted to spin the compromise as a victory, issuing a press release that the yeshivos have “acquiesced to our demands.” Buton Tuesday he appeared irritated, saying he had never been told that the state would accept Ramapo inspections since in recent months they had criticized their record.
“It’s beyond comprehension that after identifying Ramapo’s inability to properly perform inspections, suddenly their work is approved,” Day said. “We didn’t even get a courtesy call from the state telling us what’s going on.”