Debra Snell, President
12562 Rough and Ready Highway
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-1005 firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Dugan, Secretary
290 Napoleon St. Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 821-9776 email@example.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, DECEMBER 4, 2007
WALDORF CRITICS WIN APPEAL IN CHURCH-STATE CASE
People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS) filed suit against
two California school districts in 1998, alleging that the districts
were running religious programs in public schools. At the opening of
the September, 2005 trial, PLANS refused to present its case without
key witnesses and evidence that Judge Frank C. Damrell had excluded
based on his interpretation of federal court rules. This gave the
judge no option but to dismiss the case.
PLANS contended that Damrell's rulings were incorrect, and appealed
to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. After a two-year wait, the
appeal was heard November 9, 2007. PLANS was represented by Scott
Kendall of Elk Grove, California.
The three-judge panel included John T. Noonan (Harvard, Reagan
appointee), M. Margaret McKeown (Georgetown, Clinton appointee), and
Edward R. Korman (Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court, Eastern
District of New York, New York University, Reagan appointee).
Kendall told how the case was ten years old. He pointed out that
Waldorf teacher trainer Betty Staley had been listed as both an
expert and a percipient witness. Kendall pointed out where in the
record Judge Damrell had said that it was a rule that an expert
witness couldn't be a percipient witness. Kendall asserted that there
was no such rule. He referred to Brown v. Woodland, where the value
of experts in a church-state case was questioned, as the rationale
for PLANS not calling any experts.
Michelle Cannon argued for the defendants. Cannon insisted that the
defendants hadn't heard of Staley being a percipient witness until
the day of the trial. That position strained credibility, given that
Staley had been deposed by PLANS years ago. Judge Korman interrupted
to object that there was no rule, and in any case, what was the harm
in having Staley testify? Judge McKeown also asked pointed questions.
Judge Korman suggested a compromise where the district court might
hold a hearing to determine whether Staley's testimony was relevant.
Kendall said he wanted all three excluded witnesses, Betty Staley
(Rudolf Steiner College), Crystal Olson (California State University,
Sacramento), and Robert Anderson (WestEd).
Judge McKeown asked Kendall to address the issue that defendant Twin
Ridges Elementary School District no longer has jurisdiction over the
Yuba River Charter School (a Waldorf school). Kendall said PLANS
didn't dispute that fact. McKeown suggested that the substitution of
the Nevada County Office of Education, now the chartering authority
for the school, as one of the Does named in the complaint was a
matter for the district court.
The Court issued a memorandum on November 21, 2007 (Case No.
05-17193). Judge Korman wrote for the court "The district court erred
in excluding the testimony of the witnesses in question. Because
PLANS intended to call the witnesses as percipient witnesses, it did
not need to comply with the court's deadline for expert witness
disclosure. Moreover, the record indicates that PLANS disclosed the
witnesses as early as January 2001. Even if the witnesses had not
been properly disclosed, there was no prejudice as the School
Districts had previously designated the same witnesses as expert
witnesses." The court reversed the decision of the district court
(Case No. CV-98-0266 FCD PAN) and remanded the case back to that
Anthroposophy is the spiritual movement behind the world-wide network
of Waldorf schools. PLANS alleges that for Establishment Clause
purposes, Anthroposophy is a religious sect. The defendants claim
that it is a philosophy. This is a crucial issue in the case. If
Anthroposophy isn't a religious activity, then PLANS can't allege
that taxpayer-funded Waldorf schools violate the Constitution by
being entangled with religion. Common references classify
Anthroposophy as religious; for example, Encarta: "a religious
philosophy developed by Rudolf Steiner from theosophy, holding that
spiritual development should be humankind's foremost concern."
PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and
inseparably based on Anthroposophy. Curriculum decisions and teacher
training are based on Anthroposophy's child development theory, which
defines stages of reincarnation, a religious doctrine. Science
teaching in Waldorf schools includes crackpot Anthroposophical
doctrines like "the heart is not a pump." The framework for history
in Waldorf schools is based on Anthroposophy's proto-Nazi racial
theory. Publicly funded use and reliance on the doctrines of
Anthroposophy 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 Methods" magnet school, and the Twin Ridges
Elementary School District, which carried on a veritable franchise
operation, establishing six "Waldorf-inspired" charter schools, all
located in other school districts.
In May, 2001, Judge Damrell dismissed the PLANS lawsuit against the
two school districts, based on lack of standing. PLANS appealed the
decision, and in February, 2003, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
confirmed PLANS' right to sue the school districts as taxpayers and
reinstated the case.
When the U.S. District Court tried the case in September, 2005, PLANS
refused to proceed without the key witnesses and evidence that the
judge had excluded, forcing a dismissal. PLANS appealed, and the
appeal succeeded. The case now goes back to the Federal District
Court, Eastern District of California, in Sacramento.
WHAT IS PLANS?
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' mission is
to provide parents, teachers, and school boards with views of Waldorf
education from outside the cult of Rudolf Steiner, to expose the
illegality of public funding for Waldorf school programs in the US,
and to litigate against schools violating the Establishment Clause of
the First Amendment.
For more information, please see the PLANS web site,
-Dan Dugan, Secretary