http://www.waldorfcritics.orgDebra Snell, President 12562 Rough and Ready Highway Grass Valley, CA 95945 (530) 273-1005 snell gv.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 October 9, 2002
LAWSUITS CHARGE RACISM AND DISCRIMINATION IN WALDORF SCHOOLS
The oldest Waldorf school in North America, the Rudolf Steiner School of New York, is being sued by a former fourth grade teacher for racial and retaliatory discrimination in employment. Before her dismissal in June, according to the summons and complaint, Charmaine Paulson was the only African-American teacher ever employed by the school in its 74-year history, and one of only approximately five African-Americans among 5,000 teachers at member schools of the controversial Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA). Paulson alleges that in a faculty meeting she objected to the school's racially discriminatory hiring practices and to the lack of diversity among teachers and in the school community. Two days later, she was fired. Paulson also alleges that when she suggested including the African-American festival of Kwanzaa in a lesson on celebrations, the lead teacher of the school's administrative body, the "College of Teachers," disapproved her plan, stating, "I can't relate to that." (Waldorf schools generally claim, however, to be multicultural.)
Although the school stated that Paulson was fired due to her performance, the suit alleges this reason was merely a pretext for racial discrimination. Paulson further charges the school with creating a hostile and intimidating work environment and thus racially harassing her. The lawsuit also names AWSNA, which, according to its website, "takes a leading role in articulating a vision and coordinating a plan for supporting the growth and development of Waldorf education and Waldorf schools in North America." The suit charges a system-wide pattern of discrimination against African-Americans because of their minority status, stating that African-Americans are provided unequal terms, conditions and benefits of employment. African-Americans who applied or were qualified to continue in available teaching positions were allegedly denied employment because of their minority status. After denying African-Americans employment, the suit charges, the school hired and continued to seek applicants and employ non-African-Americans with the same or lesser qualifications, and evaluated Paulson with stricter methods than its non-African-American teachers. Paulson says that her classroom was observed by her supervisors 30 times in her 1-year tenure at the school, far more often than a white teacher hired at the same time.
Waldorf schools are based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, an occultist who died in 1925. Steiner taught that a person's race is part of his or her karma, and that different races have different spiritual qualities. According to Steiner, "The black or Negro race is substantially determined by . . . childhood characteristics" (Steiner, The Mission of the Individual Folk-Souls in Relation to Teutonic Mythology, 1910, 1970 edition). Karma also explains why a person is born with a handicap or disability.
A suit against a publicly funded Waldorf school, Bitney Springs Charter High School in Nevada City, California, alleges that a disabled student did not receive a free and appropriate public education. The 17-year-old former student has neurofibromatosis, a neurological disorder resulting in learning, language, social, and motor disabilities. When the boy had difficulty in school, his mother alleges that the school administrator, Kent Ratekin, repeatedly refused to meet with her and told her to "stay out of" her son's life. The suit claims the school's policies worsened the boy's condition and resulted in his being illegally coerced to leave the school. The family is seeking damages for defamation, assaultive behavior, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision of employees. A court date of January 2003 has been set.
In a third ongoing lawsuit against Waldorf schools in the US, People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS), a nonprofit group, is suing public Waldorf schools in California, alleging that the schools are based on Anthroposophy, Steiner's occult religion, and that public use and reliance on these doctrines endorse that religion in violation of the US and California constitutions. According to Dan Dugan, secretary of PLANS, the charges brought in the three lawsuits "are consistent with principles of Anthroposophy, the religious milieu of Waldorf schools," and are "symptoms of a sick social system."
The PLANS group presently awaits the ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding their right to sue. PLANS president Debra Snell said, "If taxpayers, who solely support the school, don't have the right to sue, what does that mean? What about the checks and balances in a democracy?" Snell added, "It was only a matter of time before these important issues found their way to court. Hopefully, these court cases will shed public light on Rudolf Steiner's outdated child development model and the racist beliefs that continue to thrive in Waldorf schools today." She noted that Steiner even believed that some children with learning difficulties are actually "demons in human form" (Steiner, Conferences with Teachers 1923 to 1924, vol. 2, 1989 edition).
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 endorse 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.