PEOPLE FOR LEGAL AND NONSECTARIAN SCHOOLS, INC. (PLANS) http://www.waldorfcritics.org
Debra Snell, President
12562 Rough and Ready Highway
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-1005 president waldorfcritics.org
Lisa Ercolano, Vice President
220 Gaywood Road
Baltimore, MD 21212-1709
(410) 377-4204 vicepresident waldorfcritics.org
Dan Dugan, Secretary
290 Napoleon St. Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 821-9776 secretary waldorfcritics.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, SEPTEMBER 14, 2005
PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOLS CHURCH/STATE TRIAL ABORTED OVER EVIDENCE ISSUE
In a move that shocked participants and observers in a Sacramento federal courtroom during the opening of its September 12 trial, People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS) refused to present its case without key witnesses and evidence that had been excluded by the the Hon. Frank C. Damrell. Judge Damrell said he intends to dismiss the case.
As a result, PLANS will take its case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Two witnesses--Betty Staley, creator of the Rudolf Steiner College public school teacher training program, and Dr. Crystal Olson, a Steiner College staffer who teaches courses on music education--had been listed as expert witnesses by the defendant school districts, and as percipient witnesses by PLANS. In fact, PLANS' attorney, Scott Kendall, had taken lengthy depositions from the two in 1999. However, the defense team's three attorneys changed their minds and withdrew both Staley and Olson's names from their list of expert witnesses after reading each woman's testimony. (Presumably, the lawyers recognized that the women's testimony would do the schools' case more harm than good.)
Judge Damrell then accepted an objection from the defense, who alleged that PLANS had not properly disclosed those witnesses according to the federal court rule of "automatic disclosure" (rule 26a*). This rule requires parties in lawsuits to give all their information about witnesses and evidence to the opposing party immediately, without being asked. PLANS' attorney Scott Kendall asserts that the rule does not apply in this case because it was not in effect in this court in 1998, when this case originated.
"PLANS was unable to put on its case because of the court's evidentiary rulings, which we believe to be both erroneous and prejudicial," Kendall stated. "Therefore, PLANS is taking this case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals."
Debra Snell, President of PLANS, said "After seven and a half years of dealing with legal technicalities, we expected that we'd finally be able to have a trial of the real issues in court. We are disappointed, but also more determined than ever to continue to press our case, no matter what we have to overcome. Steiner's books--which form the foundation of Waldorf education and the basis for Waldorf school teacher training--are shelved in the spirituality section of the bookstores, not the philosophy section! We have plenty of evidence that Steiner's doctrines leak into the public Waldorf schools that citizens pay taxes to support. If that's not a breach of the Establishment Clause, I don't know what is."
The Administrative Director of the Anthroposophical Society in America, Jean W. Yeager, attended the trial, despite the fact that public Waldorf schools claim they have no connection with Anthroposophy whatsoever. On February 4, 2004, Yeager intervened in a Waldorf charter school application by writing to the Benecia, California, school board, and the Anthroposophical Society submitted an amicus curiae brief in the PLANS lawsuit.**
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.
Debra Snell, President of PLANS, commented "Anthroposophy is considered a religion by scholars of comparative religion, and reference books classify it as a religion."
PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and inseparably based upon Anthroposophy, an occultist sect that split off from Theosophy in 1912. 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 Methods" magnet school, and the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, which has established six "Waldorf-inspired" charter schools.
In May, 2001, Judge Damrell dismissed the PLANS lawsuit against 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.
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.
The PLANS volunteer board includes two public school teachers, one of whom has received Waldorf teacher training; the former president of a skeptical society; the founder of a Christian cult information ministry, and two former Waldorf parents. 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.
* For more about Rule 26a, see:
** Full text of the Anthroposophical Society's brief:
-Dan Dugan, Secretary