http://www.waldorfcritics.orgDebra Snell, President 12562 Rough and Ready Highway Grass Valley, CA 95945 (530) 273-1005 snell netshel.net Lisa Ercolano, Vice President 220 Gaywood Road Baltimore, MD 21212-1709 (410) 377-4204 momof2gals mindspring.com Dan Dugan, Secretary 290 Napoleon St. Studio E San Francisco, CA 94124 (415) 821-9776 dan dandugan.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 7, 2001
PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOL TRIAL POSTPONED AGAIN, COURT TO RECONSIDER ISSUE OF STANDING
The U.S. District Court has informed PLANS that our trial date of June 25, 2001, has been reset to January 14, 2002. The court has requested the parties to re-brief the question of standing in light of Altman v. Bedford Central School District (2nd Cir., March 27, 2001). A hearing on standing will be held June 1, 2001.
In the Altman case, Roman Catholic parents sued a public school district because they objected to a number of practices that they saw as New Age religion in a public school. The court upheld some claims and dismissed others. The judge found that the making of an image of the Hindu god Ganesha, the use of "worry dolls" to "chase away bad dreams," the liturgy of an Earth Day celebration, and the playing of a Native American prayer on a meditation tape violated the Establishment Clause. Other practices that were ruled to be harmless included the game "Magic, the Gathering," a Yoga class taught by a Sikh priest, and meditation exercises.
In its decision on an appeal, the 2nd Circuit Court threw out all of the allowed claims on a technicality without considering the merits of the case. The circuit court ruled that most issues were moot because the children were no longer at the schools. Taxpayer standing was also denied because the plaintiffs did not show that the alleged religious activities involved any specific expenditure of public funds.
A major difference between the Altman case and PLANS' case is that while in Altman the practices complained about were not coordinated, PLANS alleges that Waldorf schools, both private and public, are pervaded with Anthroposophy, the religious philosophy of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). The issue with public Waldorf schools, therefore, goes beyond specific practices to the allegation that a religious philosophy is the foundation of both educational theory and day-to-day activities.
With regard to taxpayer standing, the situation is also different in PLANS' case. The schools involved made large expenditures for teacher training by Anthroposophical mentors and teacher training at Rudolf Steiner College, self-described as "a center for Anthroposophical endeavors." The Sacramento public Waldorf program occupies a separate campus established for that purpose, and the Yuba River charter school PLANS is suing was formed for that purpose, so in both situations taxpayer funds have been specifically paid for the alleged religious activities.
California Eastern District Court Judge Damrell has already ruled that PLANS has standing, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has declined to hear a challenge to that ruling. Judge Damrell's re-consideration of standing at the June 1 hearing may signal an intention to force the appeals court to decide on the issue.
PLANS was organized in late 1995 by former Waldorf parents and teachers concerned about both private and public Waldorf schools. It became a California non-profit corporation in 1997. PLANS' volunteer board includes two public school teachers, one of whom has received Waldorf teacher training; the president of a skeptical society; the associate director of a Christian anti-cult ministry, and two former Waldorf parents. PLANS' President, Debra Snell, was a director of a private Waldorf school and helped found a Waldorf charter school. For more information, please see the PLANS web site, http://www.waldorfcritics.org.
PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and inseparably based upon Anthroposophy, a New Age occultic religion. Curriculum decisions and teacher training in public Waldorf schools are based on Anthroposophy's spiritually-based child development model. Publicly-funded use and reliance upon the doctrines of Anthroposophy impermissibly endorses that religion in violation of the United States and California constitutions.
PLANS filed its federal lawsuit in Sacramento on February 11, 1998, naming as defendants the Sacramento Unified School District, which operates a "Waldorf Method" magnet school, and the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, which has established seven "Waldorf-inspired" charter schools.