FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 13, 1999
WHISTLE-BLOWING GROUP REJECTS SETTLEMENT OFFER IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE CASE
People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools, Inc., (PLANS) has rejected a settlement offered by the Sacramento Unified School District and the Twin Ridges Elementary School District. The school districts want to settle PLANS federal lawsuit alleging that the schools have violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment by operating "Waldorf" schools.
PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and inseparably based on a New Age occultic religion called Anthroposophy. Public Waldorf school curriculum decisions and teacher training are grounded in Anthroposophy's spiritually based child development model. Publicly funded use and reliance upon the doctrines of Anthroposophy endorses that religion in violation of the United States and California constitutions.
In September, the Sacramento school district asked PLANS for settlement terms. Agreement was reached when PLANS accepted a counter-offer in which the Sacramento school district pledged to disassociate itself from Waldorf education. Subsequently the Sacramento district presented a new version containing terms unacceptable to PLANS.
On September 24, 1999, United States District Judge Frank C. Damrell denied a motion by the school districts to dismiss the case. After losing their first hearing, the schools named a new lead attorney for their defense and offered PLANS new terms for settlement, this time with both school districts.
In their proposed settlement, the school districts refused to make any significant changes to current practices of the schools in question, offering only to pay PLANS $30,000, an amount less than PLANS' costs. They would continue to operate Waldorf schools and to train Waldorf teachers at Anthroposophical institutions.
"Good try," said Debra Snell, PLANS' President, "but PLANS won't be bought off. We've spent years going step by step through the system in our efforts to stop public funding for this religious cult activity, and we're going to take it all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to."
The trial is scheduled to start February 28, 2000, in federal court in Sacramento, California.
CORRECTIONS TO THE SCHOOL DISTRICT'S "FACTS"
In their press release, the schools included "Facts About PLANS and Its Lawsuit Against Public Education." Some of these statements were so misleading that they require correction.
"Waldorf schools were first opened in Germany but closed by the Nazis."
We regret that the school districts have raised the Nazi issue; the historical facts are not as flattering as their statement implies. During the Nazi era, German Waldorf schools fired their Jewish teachers, and students opened classes with the Nazi salute. Anthroposophy, Steiner's religious and political cult, was banned two years into the Nazi period, but within the Nazi party there was disagreement about Anthroposophy's Waldorf schools. A leading Nazi education official argued that Waldorf schools supported Nazi objectives because they were anti-intellectual and modeled an effective mind-control system. Hitler's second in command Rudolph Hess intervened twice to keep Waldorf schools open. Eventually, after six years, the schools were closed.
"Waldorf students score at or above average on standardized tests and score significantly above average in the upper grades."
One would expect that students in expensive private Waldorf schools would score above average, and it would be reasonable to expect that students in special public Waldorf school programs like magnet schools and charter schools would do better also. Test scores from publicly-funded Waldorf schools, however, are very inconsistent. For example, in the 1999 Stanford 9 tests, the 4th grade in the Twin Ridges school only reached the 50th percentile in math, while the Sacramento school's 4th grade scored at the national percentile rank of 8 in math.
"The PLANS lawsuit is sponsored by the Pacific Justice Institute, a right wing organization that fights to abolish the United States' constitutional separation of church and state. PLANS falsely claims it is fighting to maintain public schools free of religious instruction."
PLANS' objectives are first to remove public funding from
Waldorf programs, and second to better inform parents about the hidden
agenda of private Waldorf schools. PLANS' principal source of support is
its volunteer board, some of whom have worked for many years to inform
the public about Waldorf education. PLANS has received a grant limited
to part of the expenses of our lawsuit from the Pacific Justice Institute.
Our third source of support is donations from the public.
PLANS was organized in late 1995 by former Waldorf parents and teachers concerned about both private and public Waldorf schools. PLANS forms an unlikely coalition around the Waldorf issue, uniting liberals and evangelical Christians, factions that disagree strongly on other topics. It became a California non-profit corporation in July 1997. PLANS' volunteer board includes two public school teachers, one of whom has received Waldorf teacher training, the president of a skeptical society, a Baptist pastor, the associate director of a Christian anti-cult ministry, and two former Waldorf parents. PLANS' President, Debra Snell, was a board member of a private Waldorf school and helped found a Waldorf charter school. For more information, please see the PLANS web site, http://www.dandugan.com/waldorf.
Scott M. Kendall, PLANS' attorney, maintains a private practice in the Sacramento area of California. He focuses a substantial part of his practice on issues involving religious liberty. This litigation is financially supported by volunteer directors of PLANS, underwriting from the Pacific Justice Institute of Sacramento, CA, and donations from the members of PLANS. Mr. Kendall may be contacted for further information regarding this litigation.