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 29, 2001
PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOL SUIT DISMISSED, WHISTLE-BLOWERS TO APPEAL
The Honrable Frank C. Damrell (U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California) has dismissed PLANS' Establishment Clause lawsuit against two school districts based on lack of standing.
Judge Damrell had ruled earlier (October 24, 1999) that PLANS, representing its members who include California taxpayers, did have standing. He allowed the schools to appeal that issue to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but the appeals court refused to hear it. In this ruling (May 23, 2001), Damrell has reversed himself. PLANS will appeal the dismissal, and this time the appeals court is required to hear it.
PLANS anticipated this outcome since Judge Damrell asked the parties to re-brief him on standing in the light of the Altman case (Altman v. Bedford Central School District, 245 F.3d 49 (2nd Cir. 2001)). In Altman, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals denied claims of church-state violation that Catholic parents had won in their federal district court against New Age practices in a public school. That appeals court said the case was moot because the kids weren't in school anymore.
PLANS' case is different in two crucial ways. First, PLANS is suing on behalf of taxpayers, not students or parents, and second, PLANS alleges a fundamental and systematic entanglement with religion, not various disconnected practices as was the case in Altman.
Despite these differences, it appears that Judge Damrell now believes that the Altman ruling raises significant questions about standing that only the appeals court can answer. Dan Dugan, PLANS' Secretary, said "This dismissal is only technical; it doesn't touch the merits of the case at all. This kind of back-and-forth is par for the course in First Amendment cases. One came to the Supreme Court recently that was 15 years old. Ours is only three years old, so we have to be patient. We are appealing, we're going to be persistent."
Scott Kendall, attorney for PLANS, said "If this ruling stands, a school district could open a "Catholic-inspired" charter school staffed by priests and nuns, and no one would have the standing to challenge it. That can't be the law."
Debra Snell, President of PLANS, commented "We're disappointed that our federal case will be delayed again. Meanwhile the constitutional violations continue, and more illegal schools are opening. We are going to file a suit in state court to see if we can get more speedy relief."
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.