FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 27, 1997
PEOPLE FOR LEGAL AND NON-SECTARIAN SCHOOLS (PLANS) Contact: Debra Snell, President, (916) 273-1005 snell oro.net
Dan Dugan, Secretary, (415) 821-9776 plans dandugan.com Web site: http://www.dandugan.com/waldorf
AWARD-WINNING TEACHER TRANSFERRED TO DESK JOB AFTER OBJECTING TO CULT PROGRAM AT YUBA COUNTY COURT SCHOOL
Members of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS) will establish an informational picket line and meet the press at 1:00 PM Thursday, May 29, at Thomas E. Mathews School, 131 F Street, Marysville, CA. PLANS is protesting the ongoing conversion of Mathews and another court school, H.P. Carden, to "Waldorf" programs. Dan Dugan, Secretary of PLANS, told the Yuba County school board on May 14 that "Waldorf education is a missionary activity of Anthroposophy, a cult-like religious sect. Waldorf programs are not suitable for public funding."
T.E. Mathews School teacher Kathleen Sutphen has received two international and five national awards for teaching and curriculum development work. She specializes in classroom technology. Despite Sutphen's protests, all student computers were taken out of T.E. Mathews School classrooms just prior to the current school year, and Sutphen was directed not to let students work on computers at any time. According to Waldorf principles, computers and video equipment are harmful to children.
Sutphen refuses to take any more Waldorf training. She told PLANS "The teaching methods are educationally unsound, and clearly based on the beliefs of a religious sect. Religious doctrine in the Rudolf Steiner College courses I have been required to attend violates my personal religious beliefs." The award-winning teacher is being removed from classroom teaching and reassigned to a desk job next year. Sutphen describes ongoing harassment as a result of her protests against the Waldorf inclusion. A reporter witnessed Yuba County Office of Education staff members yelling at Sutphen after she had spoken to the school board on May 14.
Debra Snell, PLANS president, commented "We have observed this kind of thing at every public school where a Waldorf program has been protested by teachers. They wouldn't act like this over a new math program. This is cult-like behavior." Similar incidents have occurred when Waldorf programs were established in San Diego, Nevada City, and Sacramento, California.
Teachers at T.E. Mathews and H.P. Carden are required to take three hours of Waldorf training biweekly, a monthly Saturday training, a three week summer course, and on-site mentoring from Rudolf Steiner College. The college is a center for Anthroposophy, the cult of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Class notes and handouts from recent courses include Anthroposophical religious doctrine such as belief in reincarnation and "astral" and "etheric bodies." According to Snell, "PLANS is blowing the whistle on this violation of church-state separation."
Some school boards have turned Waldorf programs down because of their religious nature. In addition to the church-state question, the value of the Waldorf teaching methods is unknown. Waldorf methods are abundantly supported by testimonials, but no research.
A grant application chosen for funding by the Kellogg Foundation describes a partnership between the Yuba County Office of Education and Rudolf Steiner College to create a model Waldorf program at T.E. Mathews and H.P. Carden schools that can be imitated by other schools.
At the May 14 school board meeting, Principal Ruth Mikkelsen and Superintendent Richard Teagarden denied having a Waldorf program at T.E. Mathews school.
Mikkelsen, in the Yuba County Office of Education newsletter distributed less than one week prior to this meeting, stated: "Rudolf Steiner College will provide staff development classes. The College will also provide on-site mentoring and participate in curriculum and program design adapting the Waldorf educational approach to the special needs of court/community school students. Staff at the two Yuba County schools will meet regularly with Rudolf Steiner College staff to evaluate progress, curriculum and work on developing a model program."