A victim of teacher bullying at Waldorf

My name is Sarah. I’m a college student in Minnesota. I’m in my sophomore year. I’m majoring in legal studies and political science with a minor in women’s studies. I’m a political activist, an A student, I’m on the honor society in college. My career goal is to be a lawyer. I’m also a Waldorf survivor. My academic success is in spite of Waldorf, not because of Waldorf.

I attended a Waldorf school from first grade to the beginning of sixth grade between the years of 1988-1993. I have ADD. I’ve had it since I was born, but I wasn’t diagnosed until I was twelve. I also had otitis media when I was four and had to have tubes in my ears.

Regardless, I’ve always had a very good intellectual capacity, and I’m smart even then. I attended and graduated from a catholic high school and I was on the honor roll in high school and when I graduated from high school I was the sole winner in my senior class to win the senior social studies award. Also I’m eligible for a scholarship at another university that I want to transfer to.

Even with being smart at a young age, focusing was difficult until I was diagnosed after I left Waldorf and was put on medicine. The fact that I had ADD should have been picked up by my teacher but girls with ADD don’t get diagnosed until late or not at all. I don’t buy that it’s hard to diagnose straight ADD in girls, because girls aren’t as hyper and disruptive as boys. I think it’s just another way for society to oppress the female gender. Not to mention Waldorf is totally in the dark about ADD related disorders and other types disabilities related to that.

My teacher was a man who I will refer to here as Mr. M, who was and is an asshole and a teacher bully. (I recently read an article about teacher bullying and it clear a lot of things up that happened to me with him.) He was not a good teacher either. My mom even said to me later on that, Mr. M was known to be so abstract that even adults had trouble learning from him. Mr. M demanded perfection. If you made even a little mistake he would give you the riot act. He had no patience what so ever.

Mr. M went out of his way to give me a hard time and bully me because of my difficulty paying attention, or if I made a mistake no matter how small. I didn’t act out in any way, I liked school and I tried hard. Even with my learning difference I did fairly well overall, but he just acted like I was stupid and lazy.

I remember him in first grade screaming at me in front of the whole class, because I was having trouble understanding a math problem. I also remember in first grade, we were doing our first painting and I forgot to wet my brush after dunking it with another color and I accidentally mixed that blue and the yellow making what was supposed to be a yellow, green. However, instead of giving me a chance to correct my mistake he just told me that I couldn’t paint that day. I laid my head down on the desk feeling devastated. As I look back as an adult, I look at him and I think to myself, ‘how dare he treat that little girl (me) that way.’ I was only seven years old. He could have given me a chance to fix the mistake. I remember in third grade, I misunderstood a homework assignment and he literally shamed me for the whole afternoon. It was a lot of things like that during the time he was my teacher.

Even with the problems with paying attention, Mr. M could have found some way of trying to try to help me rather than bully me. I don’t care if he didn’t know that I had ADD or if I wasn’t properly diagnosed back then. You don’t treat children that way. I mean section 504 of the rehabilitation act of 1973 was around in 1988 and ADD a known disorder back then. Mr. M should have realized that I had ADD and so did everyone else.

Mr. M was also a sexist. Mr. M would let the boys get away with anything and if the girls did something they would catch hell from him. He would pick out different girls besides me, who were vulnerable in some way and they would become his bully targets. When he would bully those other girls, he would lay off me a bit.

When I was in second grade Mr. M hung me by the legs, over a hockey rink wall. Mr. M was helping kids over the wall and when he lifted me over to the other side; he grabbed me by the legs and hung me over the wall upside down with my hands on the ground, and I did not know he was going to do this. I was freaked. I told my mom about it and she gave Mr. M a good piece of her mind. She told me he felt bad and realized he was wrong. However, when Mr. M saw me at school, he told me that he didn’t do anything wrong and that I was being too sensitive. I know realize that’s a sign of teacher bullying.

Mr. M also would inappropriately tease me in second grade in ways were not appropriate to tease small children. Basically, he teased me in ways that are okay to tease adults, but not children. My parents of course told him to stop it.

Whenever dealing with my parents Mr. M would pretend to act all sweet and nice, but when he was with me, he became a bully. My mom knows now that she should have taken me out of that school a lot sooner, but now I know about teacher bullying and Waldorf ways of seducing people into the school, I can cut her some slack.

Mr. M even sexually harassed me in fourth grade. One day he was out of the room and we were all running around, and there was this boy who was hitting girls on the butts, including me. I told the boy to stop it but he wouldn’t. When Mr. M came back into the room, I told him that this boy was hitting girls on the butts. However, instead of taking the boy aside and explaining to him that that kind of behavior was not okay, in front of the whole class, he lambasted me for being a tattletale, saying that it was just a game. He told me not to be so fragile or sensitive otherwise no one would want to be my friend. Eventually, I told my mother and she yelled in his face and told a friend of hers on the school board. Why this man hasn’t been fired I’ll never know.

Now I am not upset anymore with the ten year old boy, who was hitting girls on the butts. He being an immature ten year old boy who needed an adult to sit him down and explain why that kind of behavior is not okay. I am livid and furious and outraged about how a grown man could sink so low as to sexually harass a ten year old girl and allow and condone that kind of behavior. I know that when teachers go to school to become teachers they are taught about education law and when congress passes a new law or the Supreme Court rules on a law regarding education teachers are made aware of it. Title IX was passed in 1972, nine years before I was born and twenty years before the incident. The Minnesota state statute says all schools even private much have a sexual harassment policy, and this statute was passed in 1989. I know that Mr. M knew what sexual harassment was and that it was against the law in the 1991-1992 school years. However, after I was sexually harassed he turned around and violated my civil rights and sexually harassed me and taught every single student in that classroom that sexual harassment was okay. As a woman, a feminist, and a future lawyer it disgusts me and boggles my mind. I’ve heard that a lot of times Waldorf schools ignore civil rights laws and it’s wrong.

Throughout the time Mr. M was my teacher, like I said I did fairly well considering the fact that I had ADD and had a terrible teacher, but my focus and concentration was difficult for me. My mom said the child expert that I saw, thought it was because I had Otis media (tubes in my ears) as a child, but still Mr. M would bully me and harass me about my difficulty paying attention; even though I worked hard, and had a good intellectual capacity (which he knew). I remember one time he pounded his fist on the desk trying to get me to pay attention and would snap his fingers in front of my face. He would single me out and humiliate me in front of the class for my struggles with focusing more than once threw out the years. One time he told me that sometimes he thought I just couldn’t get it, other times he thought I just didn’t care. My mom yelled in his face for that. When I asked him for help, he was lecture me saying that I wasn’t trying and when I didn’t ask for help he would lecture me saying that I should ask him for help.

In first grade, I felt my self-esteem being affected and I felt very small as result of his behavior towards me and it made learning harder for me. I can see now that his bullying of me only made it harder for me to learn. Eventually in sixth grade, my parents finally saw Mr. M for who he was and took me out of that school. However, now I clearly see that what Mr. M did to me was to psychologically abusive, and disability harass me and sexually harass me.

After Waldorf, I went to a Catholic school just for the education. I had to get caught up and I did. Actually I was able to make up six years of school in one. It was there that I was diagnosed with ADD and put on Dexedrine.

For years I suffered from low self-esteem and in junior high and high school, I became so obsessed over perfection as a result of Mr. M and other types of discrimination I faced at the catholic school that I attended. (I’m part Jewish on my father’s side and my mom is congregational, and I was never brought up one way or the other, and one of the schools discriminated against me and my parents for that.) I developed panic attacks and sheer anxiety thinking that I had to try harder than I needed to. I did well in high school. However, I believe I could have done even better if I hadn’t been scarred from Mr. M. I was on the B honor roll and when I graduated I won the senior social studies award for academic excellence in social studies and outside political involvement. I was the only person who won that award in my entire class. However, the week I graduated high school, I realized that Mr. M was the one who was wrong and that I was not fairly assessed by them. I was only 7 years old when Mr. M treated me the way he did, and I knew what he was doing was wrong and but I thought I deserved it. Now I know differently. I’m dealing with the effects now, and I’m planning on writing a letter to Mr. M and sending it to him.

My mom runs a Waldorf inspired preschool in her home. She works for herself, and told me her preschool was “Waldorf inspired” because she doesn’t approve of everything the school does. She’s a wonderful teacher, and she follows all civil rights law regardless of Waldorf’s blessing and she’s very diverse in her preschool and she doesn’t abuse or harass her student and employees in anyways. She doesn’t believe in the alternative medicine approach and she takes ideas from all different areas and does not run her school like a cult, like other schools do. Even she is concerned about some of the stuff that goes on in Waldorf schools and warns her parents about that Waldorf is not for everyone. One of the reasons why here school is a success, is because she obeys the laws of the United States and doesn’t allow abuse or harassment of any kind in her school.

Still I recently learned that a lot of Waldorf students have stories like mine. Since I found out about Waldorf Critics, I am deeply concerned about a lot of the things that go on there. My mom even said the way they run their schools without a principal and they don’t screen out teachers very well is really bad. That is something she does not practice in her school.

As far as Mr. M, is concerned he still teaches at this school and has done this kind of thing to other students and the administration has done nothing about it. My mom would never allow that kind of thing to happen in her school and if one of her teacher assistants did anything like that she would fire them.

Also I was disturbed to hear that a lot of children to attend Waldorf become delayed academically, among a lot of other things. Waldorf schools (expect for my moms) are not flexible. They are rigid and only care about their ways. They operate by their own set of rules. They don’t live in the real world and they are very cult-like.

Also the way the treat people with disabilities is disgraceful. Instead of treating children with ADD and other learning problems they use the extra lesson, which is a fake treatment and does not help children with ADD and other types of disabilities and learning problems. When children are denied an education and treatment for medical treatment, for medical conditions that is child abuse, and that is what Waldorf is doing.

In the letter I’m writing to my teacher, one of the things I’m saying in these exact words.

“The U.S. law doesn’t care about what Mr. M thinks, about women and people with learning differences and psychiatric disabilities. The federal and state government doesn’t care. Congress doesn’t care. The Executive Branch doesn’t care. The Supreme Court doesn’t care. The women’s movement doesn’t care. The children’s rights movement doesn’t care. The civil rights movement doesn’t care. The disability movement doesn’t care. And I don’t care. The U.S. law, the federal and state government, Congress, The Executive Branch, The Supreme Court, and these movement, don’t give a damn about Rudolph Steiner and Anthroposophy either. All they care about is Thomas Jefferson’s words in the declaration of independence and Elizabeth Cady Stanton words in the Declaration of Sentiments. That people are created equal (yes women too) and that they are given certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Anything that violates that is wrong, and I feel the same way.”

Every penny that my parents paid for that school was a waste. I got nothing out of it. I’m a success because of normal education, not Waldorf. I’m all for the arts and whatever works for a child to learn, but Waldorf schools only care about their way, and they reject all other ways. There methods are not even scientifically proven. It’s time for things to change.