Thursday, June 21, 2012

More Waldorf School Bullying

Here are some stories from around the net:


What's Waldorf?

The alternative school's holistic, arts-based philosophy seemed like a perfect fit for my kids. Then I started learning about the eccentric mystical beliefs of its founder.

Editor's note: Names marked with an asterisk (*) have been changed.

By Meagan Francis

May 26, 2004 | When Ted and Joan Shores* began researching schools near their Seattle home for their 4-year-old daughter, Clair, they settled fairly easily on the local Waldorf school. "We wanted a school that encouraged learning through play, instead of pushing formal academics," says Joan, who says that she was drawn to the school because of Waldorf's stance on electronic media (a no-no -- most Waldorf schools discourage the use of television and computers by young children) and nature play (encouraged -- Waldorf schools provide children with wooden blocks, simple cloth dolls, twigs, stones and other nature items rather than plastic toys). They were also excited to join the ready-made community of school families who pitched in with fundraising efforts, coordinated school events, and celebrated festivals together -- conventional holidays, like Christmas and Easter, plus celebrations centering on less-mainstream events, like the harvest, solstice, and May Day.

But the seemingly idyllic mix of a holistic education for their daughter and a supportive community for their family quickly soured: Clair began to be bullied by an older, bigger boy at school, and none of the staff seemed to notice. Though Clair was coming home in tears and no longer wanted to attend school, teachers dismissed Joan's concerns, she says -- even when she'd witnessed the bullying herself. "Our lead teacher kept asking what Clair's bedtime was, while insisting she never saw bullying at school," Joan says. "She would never address the behavior of the other child." (When called for comment, a representative from Clair's school said that no one had time to answer questions.) Instead, the teacher suggested to a frustrated Ted that he "read his Steiner."

Epinephrine i went to a waldorf school in germany when i was in grade 9 and it was one of the most horrible experiences of my entire life. i only stayed for 5 weeks and sneaked out to enroll in another school after i was told i couldn't go in a class trip because it would disrupt group cohesion. months later i found out that one of the students commited suicide in that trip.

the skeptic's dictionary has a nice article about that freak

Initial post: Aug 8, 2007 8:07:50 AM PDT
Mr. Sato says:
I've read and heard so many different opinions on Waldorf Schools it is hard to know what to believe. I'd like to have a direct communication with both students and parents of students who have attended or are attending a Waldorf/Steiner school. I am faced with deciding on a school for my own daughter, who is about to start kindergarten.

What is your opinion/experience?

Posted on Feb 25, 2010 9:22:40 PM PST
VA Mom says:
I would tread very carefully into a Waldorf School. Waldorf schools have a history of bullying. Anthro teachers and parents believe that it is wrong to intervene when a child or children bully another as it is karma working itself out. Also, teachers are hired without any real teaching credentials. Make sure your child's teacher has teaching experience appropriate to the grade OUTSIDE of Waldorf. Waldorf has strange ideas about teaching. Children are not taught to read UNTIL the 2nd grade. Children in the lower grades simply COPY from the board their main lesson. Math is very much de-emphasized and may be "officially" taught maybe 1 day a week. We matriculated my daughter from public school to a Waldorf school in 2nd grade. Her math and reading comprehension skills actually DECLINED. We pulled her out midway through 3rd grade and had her professionally tutored in math and language arts to get her up to speed with her peers OUTSIDE of Waldorf (meaning every other school out there, public and private). We paid a pretty penny to Waldorf to have my daughter's academics decline and another pretty penny to a professional tutoring company to bring her up to speed. After it was all said and done, we basically paid Waldorf to teach my daughter how to knit. She was also continually taunted by an anthro teacher's child.

I would stay away from Waldorf. The schools are not accredited by any other academic accrediting body other than themselves. 
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 26, 2010 11:05:50 AM PST
Mr. Sato says:
Wow, took a long time to get a reply, but... anyway....
We did end up sending our daughter to a Waldorf school. Our experience was mixed. It is totally true what you say about academics, but that's part of a plan. At some point academics play a much bigger part and accelerate quite rapidly. Around 5th or 6th grade they are on par with other schools. Typically they far surpass other schools by 8th to 9th grade, when high school becomes a college prep essentially. Students who graduate from the Waldorf system tend to do VERY well in college, and often get accepted to ivy league colleges.

The problems we had that eventually caused us to pull our daughter out are:
1. The cost is very high. Tuition is only about 70 -80% of what you'll actually pay.
2. The time they want you to put in to help out is too great unless one parent doesn't work.
3. We weren't sure we could keep our daughter in the school long enough to benefit from their system. If we move to Japan (which is a possibility), she would be severely behind the other students, and there are no Waldorf schools in the Tokyo/Yokohama area.

We pulled her out after she finished kindergarten, and had her repeat kindergarten at the next school (private). There is a trend to start children in kindergarten later, so she wasn't the only one her age in there. She's much happier now with the level of challenge. She really was bored at the Waldorf school.

I don't want to say no one should send their child to a Waldorf school. But it should be left to parents who are entertainers, writers, something like that - who's schedules are largely their own, can afford the costs in time and money, and can stick with the program K-12.
Posted on Feb 27, 2010 5:49:02 PM PST
VA Mom says:
Mr. Sato.. You said: "Typically they far surpass other schools by 8th to 9th grade, when high school becomes a college prep essentially. Students who graduate from the Waldorf system tend to do VERY well in college, and often get accepted to ivy league colleges." Do you have any ACTUAL proof of this, or is this what your Waldorf school told you?

What are the disadvantages of Steiner/Waldorf schools?


Best Answer - Chosen by Voters

Willow gave you some great answers!

Below are some links to websites that people have put up about their experiences in Waldorf schools. Most have to do with:

bullying (The Waldorf belief that being bullied and bullying people helps your soul through its incarnation process.)

lack of academics or weird academics (Waldorf teachers believe and teach such things as an ancient Babylonian spirit inhabits electronic devices and brings forth intellectual knowldege. This is why children are kept away from both during early elementary school. Then when they are older, children are taught scientifically incorrect things like islands are floating on the ocean, or there are 4 elements.)

racism- Steiner was a pre WWI German and has instilled in the Waldorf philosophy the idea that lighter skin, hair and eyes are superior.

lack of creativity- although there is a lot of art, music, and movement- it is all very scripted, right down to the specific color a child may use or the type of line he may draw at a specific age.

non-developmental- another thing that sounds weird when you first hear it because Waldorf teachers are always talking about things being "developmentally appropriate. The problem here is that their definition of the term is different from modern science's definition. As opposed to modern science's definition of developmentally appropriate being "when children's brains and have developed enough to be able to completely understand and preform the task", Waldorf's definition is "the age when Rudorf Steiner felt that an activity would help further the souls incarnation into the body."

Lack of personal choice- Children are only allowed to learn about subjects and things on Steiner's timeline. If a child is interested in something not on Steiner's list of appropriated subjects for their specific age, they cannot learn about them at school, and their parents are pressured to not allow them to learn about them at home

Cult-like behavior- Parents are expected to continue Waldorf beliefs in their home, so no electronic devices-(TV, video games, Wii, movies,...), no reading to young children or books in general, only using "natural" toys, (wooden toys-dolls with no faces, beeswax crayons,..), no competitive sports, only allowing Waldorf doctors and medicine, no or few museums and festivals that are appropriate.... After a while the only people with whom a family can associate are other Waldorf families.

There's more, here are some links to it all...………………………


Perth Waldorf School: The place where I spent some of the worst years of my life. The place where, yes, there were some nice people, but I met some of the meanest boys I have ever had the displeasure to meet. They teased me, they threw things at me, they made me angry just because it was funny, they lied to teachers so they wouldn't get in trouble, and they got away with it. You know why, because nobody cared! Not even their parents. THEIR PARENTS WERE SO IN DENIAL!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Steiner Free Schools in the UK


25 May 2012 9:12PM

I chose a Steiner school for the Kindergarten years, because I considered that a 4 year old didn't need to learn to read / write and research the internet for facts on bees. They could learn about bees by encountering them (experiential learning) and their time was much better spent playing freely in a beautiful environment and cared for by teachers who cared for them as human beings.

The problem I saw was that, once a child hits the 'classes' (age 6 and a half-7) the esoteric aspects of the education become too much and undermine a perfectly lovely way of teaching. i.e. Steiner schools are non-denominational, but really... they are based on Anthroposophy, which is the science of man from an esoteric point of view. The problem is that they wouldn't admit it. As an insider in the school, I once heard a senior teacher admit that 'we can't tell the parents that the education is based on Esoteric Christianity'. So the main issue for me was that they weren't being honest. This deceit was my main reason for taking my children out.


25 May 2012 9:17PM

Response to 0800, 25 May 2012 8:49PM

    Look at how Steiner kids end up as adults. Are they evil, damaged, misinformed, ignorant, unhappy, unemployable, bored, suicidal, miserable, anti-social, zealots etc?

Yep, I know a family of three siblings, now in their thirties, all Steiner educated. One committed suicide a few years back. One is a recovering addict. The other is now a research scientist but talks passionately about her "wasted years", struggling to reach the level of her comprehensively-educated peers so as to get research posts and funding.

The suggestion that no kid who had a Steiner education didn't have a difficult life subsequently is fatuous and ridiculous.

You are quite obviously an idiot.


25 May 2012 9:22PM

I love almost all of the approaches of Steiner education, the gentleness, the softness and the humanity.

But I cannot send my kids to a school that demeans science - not the technology, but the process - as I have discovered in my life that the understanding of the natural world offered by science is one of the most beautiful of human achievements. I include Darwin and Einstein as part of this endless human project.

If you read Steiner's book the Kingdom of Childhood, he dismisses General Relatively with what I took to be a strong done of anti-semitism. Even with that issue aside, I have studied Relatively and its it one of the wonders of the human world - alongside the greatest art and literature.

Perhaps one day the Steiner movement will start to think for itself and modernise, not normalise, but incorporate the best of human values with the best and highest of all human achievement.

The you would have a real human force to reckon with. In hope... Dr Ben Lane (ex plain theoretical physicist now environmental technologist).


25 May 2012 9:58PM

I grew up near a Steiner school (near Gloucester) and had lots of friends who had attended it. Many had real problems adjusting to thr world...getting and holding down work, dealing with the reality of everyday life. They would often struggle emotionally and underachive. However I have brother with developmental disabilities who could not cope with state school and would have benefitted by being at a Steiner school.


25 May 2012 10:11PM

If you actually read Steiner, there's quite a lot of esoteric mumbo jumbo, such as the idea that children should not learn to read before they lose their milk teeth. I completely lost the ability to take anything Steiner related seriously when I read the rules for biodynamic farming (he invented that, too).

I don't think a lot of Steiner advocates have really dealt with the problems inherent in the philosophy. If all we want is more creative education, do we really need Steiner with his associated gumf to tell us so? Never mind that much of what seems creative in a Steiner school is very teacher directed, such as the artwork. They also don't deal with major issues such as Steiner's racism and anti-Semitism, which are visible in some schools (an acquaintance told me that they openly favor white children at her local Waldorf in the USA). There's a real attempt to square the circle. I've met a Steiner trained teacher who had not dealt full on with anthroposophy.

Ultimately, I think Steiner preys on a contemporary fear of technology and romanticization of the natural. Steiner schools are also hotbeds of vaccine rejection.

By the way, anyone looking for a laugh might want to look up Sufjian Stevens' essay on going to a Steiner school.


25 May 2012 10:44PM

I think this article fails to convey the plain weirdness of many of Steiner's beliefs. Until I did some investigation, I thought that Steiner schools were a bit like Montessori schools, or A.S. Neill's Summerhill. That is far from the truth. You can get a much clearer view of the Steiner cult by looking at three guest posts written by Melanie Byng (mentioned in the article), with another ex-Steiner parent.

Part 1. The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education. Mystical barmpottery at taxpayers' expense.
Part 2. The Steiner Waldorf cult uses bait and switch to get state funding.
Part 3. Steiner Waldorf Schools. The problem of racism.

I find it hard to believe that anyone who has read these would wish to send their child to such schools, or that anyone would wish taxpayers' money to be spent supporting them.

It is worth mentioning, that the University of Aberdeen recently decided to turn down large donations that had been offered to establish a chair of anthroposophical medicine. That was a very sensible decision since anhroposophical medicine is a danger to public health.


25 May 2012 10:47PM

I have met people in the past who went to the local Steiner school-all of them were very naive and consequently having a very difficult time in adapting to the real adult world-maybe coincidence-but I am inclined to think not.


25 May 2012 11:48PM

I worry a bit on Steiner schools as the perfect breeding ground for almost disappeared contagious diseases: measles, rubella, mumps, whooping cough, they could even bring tetanus back, with their love of gardening and walks in the forest. This because the view of steinerians, and of most of the parents that choose this schools, regarding vaccination is that is something dangerous, to be avoided in favour of a more "olistic" approach.

A sentence like this:"A reductionist biology which states or implies that the human body is a machine … is not one which nourishes the adolescent's deepest concerns. The current theories are just that – theories. They have not been in existence long and though presented as 'truth' they will inevitably change" should be enough to exclude the Steiner schools from every form of state help, I don't want my tax money to pay this. Thanks.

PS: Actually the bit I about changing theories is very interesting, it shows clearly how they just don't get the essence of the scientific method. Of course theories will change in time: In science a theory is valid untill somebody "falsifies" it with a repeatable experiment, and proposes a new one, that will then stay valid until somebody else will falsify it. Mind you, some theories are pretty hard to falsify...

There is no absolute truth, it is not religion.


26 May 2012 12:31AM


    And yet people who have actually been to these schools seem to be dong a pretty good job of defending them on this very forum. How can that be? Maybe they've not read the articles?

Oh I think that it's more than likely that they haven't read the articles to which I provided links. Nobody likes cognitive dissonance, and the Steiner mindset is not very interested in evidence. Nevertheless, they are essential reading for anyone who wants to know the facts of the matter.

I can't agree that the defence of Steiner schools mounted here is very convincing, though it is often a bit hysterical. I wonder how many of the defenders are in jobs that need an understanding of science or critical thinking? No doubt there are a few, but I suspect not many.

All you have to do is read what their own textbooks say.

    Darwinism, the book notes, is "rooted in reductionist thinking and Victorian ethics", while homeopathy is given as an example of "an effect that cannot be explained".

This betrays a total misunderstanding of both Darwin and of ethics. It is about as anti-science as you can get. Well apart from the bit about homeopathy. In Australia, homeopaths have been jailed for the manslaughter of their own daughter, because they insisted on treating her with their magic water.

As it happens, I live quite near a Steiner school, and that, no doubt, is responsible for the low vaccination rates in the area. It is one thing for Steiner parents to endanger the lives of their own children by failing to get them vaccinated. But in so doing they are endangering the lives of everyone in the area, including my own child.

    gardenangel 26 May 2012 1:23AM

    As Germit said earlier:

    "Now, as I've noted, there are serious issues with Steiner education but none of the things you mentioned were part of that. The more I read of your report, the more you reveal your ignorance."

    According to Steiner 'critic' Pete Karaiskos, who has been collecting testimonials: "it seems the MOST problematic issue in Waldorf is unchecked bullying".

    And although the vast majority of testimonials to this fact online are anonymous, that in itself is testimony to the intense mobbing behaviour these communities can dish out to people who question the perplexing lack of attention to bullying in these schools.

    Meanwhile, we continue with our Human Rights mediation with an Auckland Steiner School over their expulsion of our child who was being bullied, and her sisters, because we asked them to stick to the printed behaviour policy, which said they took it 'very seriously' (incidentally, this is the same thing Alan Swindell of the UK's Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship said "all" Steiner schools do in an article last week in "This is Cornwall" - will you be answering the questions we asked you there, Mr Swindell?). Instead the school followed another, strangely hidden, policy that did nothing to protect or separate the bullyers and the bullied, leading to daily assault:

    Here are two short examples of the kinds of emails we receive about the Waldorf school our kids went to:

    "my son went to the Rudolf Steiner kindy for a while in the late 80s and endured months of physical and 'mental' bullying."

    And another from a pupil at the same school in the 90s: "The teachers did nothing, to help they even said things like "this your fault" "stop crying" "your only making it worse"."

    In fact, we have such testimonials about unchecked bullying at the same school spanning four decades.

    Given the imminence of UK public funding it's especially disappointing (if predictable) to see this subject looked at through the myopic lens of "Britain" with a cursory nod to the States, when there are so many countries who have state-funded Steiner schools.

    New Zealand, having had them for so long, and co-incidentally being full of Brits, might have been one such to have included - not pretty, but is it really fair to the general public to present what looks like a balanced article, and leave out so much known information?

    Have a look at this video to see the questions we think Mr Gove should be asking before giving austerity funding to this movement: Whistleblowing in Education - Mr Gove's State-Funded Anthroposophy


26 May 2012 2:24AM

Response to alipan, 25 May 2012 11:52PM

I object absolutely and entirely to any school or pedagogical system that's based on the unbelievable religious claptrap of anthroposophy. I read a couple of Steiner's books and some training materials for teachers, and the ideas would be laughable if they weren't intended to be applied to kids.


26 May 2012 2:48AM

Response to JonathanKent, 25 May 2012 9:11PM

I went to a Steiner school and a girl in my class was left-handed but forced to write with her right. She was taken to the doctor to prove that she could use her right but was just choosing to use her 'wrong' hand. However this was twenty years ago so I would hope things have changed


26 May 2012 6:15AM

I'm not surprised that the students didn't consider that they were receiving a religious education, because the antroposophy is not made visible. However, the educational philosophy is governed by Steiner's quasi-religious beliefs, not by any pedagogical research. And antroposophy is a highly racialised version of theosophy. Some non-white parents have withdrawn their parents from Steiner schools after realising that the happy little songs about the sun and the moon don't sound so cute when you put them in the context of anthoposophy's belief in sun people (Aryans) and moom people ("backward" races).


26 May 2012 8:47PM

Our children went to a Steiner school until the penny dropped about the reasons why certain things were taught and done in a particular way; we whipped them out sharpish.....(and yes, attempts were made to change left handedness of one of our children, and as far as I know at this particular school I know two other left handed children who they have tried with recently too, so this is apparently still going on)

If anyone has any doubts about anthroposphy in the classroom, read the teacher training reading list and course content...... Jeevan Vasagar certainly should have:

School isn't a place where karma, past lives and consulting with angels should play any part in making judgements or decision about children, let alone their education. If Steiner's work  wasn't referred to so comprehensively in all areas of these schools, from the shape of the typeface to the colours on the walls, not to mention the content of the curriculum, it would be less alarming.

I understand that immersion into Steiner's beliefs is a staged process, and teachers are exposed to his more new age beliefs before gradually invited to study his more unusual creeds. It's more like a path of initiation than an education system. "Some are caught so it's worth the feeders who slip by" was how someone put it.

Within school communities,  angels, astral bodies and karma are "normalised". While I don't  think for a moment that the schools are full of racist bigots, to normalise connections between skin colour, eye colour and spiritual  advancement can never be far away, however gentle and spiritual the  sentiment. The schools are quite open about classifying the children  by medieval temperament,  which includes their body shape, pallor  and  physiognomy, and use these as tools  to help in their "child study"  sessions. In my view this is dangerous, anti-theraputic, anti  scientific, anti-intellectual and luminously wrong.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Highland Hall Waldorf School Letters of Complaint by Parents

Below are several letters of complaint against Highland Hall Waldorf School in Northridge, CA.  This is the school I am personally most familiar with.  Two of my own letters of complaint are at the end.

July 12,2004

Highland Hall Waldorf School
17100 Superior St.
Northridge, CA 91325

To: Christine Meyer and the College

We waited a few weeks after we received your letter, to try and compose a reasonable response. Your recent letter indicates that our son is not allowed to re-enroll and our daughter's enrollment is probational because there are unnamed people who have blamed us for doing something unspecific that somehow upset various individuals whose identities we are not allowed to know. Your letter came as a shock because up until Christine Leonard was put on a paid leave of absence, various committees consistently told us that they recognized how diligently we were following the correct communications protocol.

Before we wrote our January 26 letter we consulted with a member of the College and a member of the Board. Throughout the process we consulted with additional Board members plus a member of the Evaluation Committee all of whom assured us we were correctly attempting to resolve our concerns. To this date, Joan Newton is the only member of the College who directly asked for and was genuinely willing to accept an explanation for any misunderstanding that arose at the May 26 parent meeting. Because you have given us only vague generalizations, we are unclear as to what exactly we have done wrong and can only speculate that your letter may be related to the many times Maura was wrongly accused of gossiping over the last few months.

For example, on March 23, an Evaluation Committee member told Maura she had heard that a few kindergarten parents were upset by information Maura had given them about the Fifth grade. As Maura explained, when a parent approached us and asked about specific details they had already heard from other sources, we responded to their questions. We never provided anyone with information they didn't already have from other sources.

In late April, a Highland Hall teacher angrily asked Maura why she had spoken very negatively about the High School to a prospective parent. Karl, not Maura, actually spoke to the parent and told her the faculty is wonderful but Olivia left for social reasons.

Unfortunately, the teacher jumped to three false conclusions. First, that Maura spoke to this prospective parent. Second, that everything said to this parent was negative. And, third, that this parent must have chosen not to enroll her child because of all the negative information she learned. We contacted this parent by e-mail and learned that none of this is true. And yet, how many of you heard this information and have not bothered to ask us about it because you feel we deserve to be blamed?

In May, Ed Eadon and Lori Gardner asked Maura why she had told someone that Alex Houghton would be the Sixth grade teacher. Again, Maura never had this conversation. Lori and Ed would not reveal who gave them this false information. Maura sent a letter to Lori and Ed politely and specifically requesting that they let her know in writing they had taken action to clear up this unsubstantiated accusation. Finally, after a month of waiting, Maura asked why she had not heard anything from either of them. Ed and Lori both told her that they didn't think it was necessary to communicate any written or verbal response to her.

At the May 26th meeting, Fifth grade parents were asked what would they hope to see to prevent the current communication crisis from reoccurring. The main message Maura tried to convey, (which should be in the notes) was that there is an inordinate fear of parents talking to each other. Anyone who says even the slightest criticism, publicly or privately, no matter how constructive it may be, gets accused of being a disgruntled hysteric who lacks tact and discretion and only wants to destroy everything that is good about the school. After eleven years at Highland Hall, we continue to be grateful for those faculty and parents who embrace each problem not as if it is a judgement or a threat, but as a valuable opportunity for learning about ourselves and discovering our true purpose as a community.

Your letter states that we are not willing "to accept the conclusions of various committees". This is clearly not true. Our March 25 letter states that we absolutely accept the Evaluation Committee's conclusion that we should find another school for our son. We informed the Business Office in May that Wesley would definitely not be attending Highland Hall. The College had enough information to officially know that we were fully complying with the Evaluation committee's conclusions.

Your letter says that our communication has had "negative effects on other adults, including the former teacher..." We realize that the questions we asked were intense. When parents hear about a teacher handing out pills to control disruptive boys, difficult questions absolutely must be asked. If Christine's feelings got hurt in the process, unfortunately, it could not be avoided. In our March 25 letter, we thanked Christine for the apology she offered to the parents and we wrote, "In our struggle to protect Wesley, if we have harmed you, we also wish to sincerely apologize." The day after the April 22 meeting in which parents who were loyal to Christine shouted at the committee representatives, Maura privately apologized to a College member who had attended. He assured her the intensely volatile meeting was not a result of anything we had done.

Your letter states that we don't trust the school. We trusted that the College would recognize the validity of our questions, which is why we asked you for help in January. We appreciate that it took enormous courage to intervene on behalf of the children. There are at least a half dozen outraged parents who have publicly stated in meetings and widely circulated e-mails that they don't trust your reasons for asking an extremely popular teacher to take a paid leave of absence. Have you warned them that their lack of trust in the school has compromised their children's enrollment?

Your letter implies that the College is holding us to a standard that is not being applied to the parents who tried to start a boycott against attending school after Christine was removed. Have you sent any kind of warning to the parents who, at the April 22 meeting, screamed at Evaluation Committee members to stop lying? Parents hollered at us that if we didn't like the battered wife song Mrs. Leonard sang, we should leave the school. None of these parents are told that their
children's enrollment will be revoked since many of them spent their Spring break organizing ways to interfere with the school's emergency plan for the class. A few of these same parents viciously gossiped about Jazmin Ferreccio's motives for teaching the class and thereby "back-stabbing Christine Leonard". Rather than jeopardizing their child's enrollment, it is astonishing that some of these same outspoken parents have been selected to help create guidelines for improving other parents' conduct.

As soon as Christine was abruptly removed from the class a climate of mistrust erupted. As much as we were relieved that you asked Christine to take a break, it was obvious to us that the request profoundly impacted everyone. There are no winners and there are no victims, including Christine Leonard. And yet, rather than the College realizing how we each played a part in this complicated decision, you are exclusively targeting us by putting our daughter's education at the mercy of how you (possibly inaccurately) may perceive our actions.

When Cathy Devries was our son's teacher, we used the exact same communications protocol that we followed this year. In Second grade, our concerns fortunately matched those of the majority of the Second grade parents. This year, we have been in the minority of many of those same parents. We are incredibly frustrated that despite our best efforts to be conscientious and fair during a brutally exhausting and confusing process, you see us as wanting to harm this community.

We had hoped to spend the summer preparing to be at Highland Hall without Wesley for the first time in eleven years. On Wesley's last day at Highland Hall, Joan Newton told him she would miss him and wished him well in his new school. We felt her compassionate gesture gave our family some sense of peacefully moving on.

The adversarial tone of your letter makes it a challenge to simply focus on the joy of having our youngest child enter First grade. However, we see no value in starting this next school year with animosity or apprehension. We would like to say that if we have offended any of you, we apologize and invite any of you to let us know if we can do anything to correct any misunderstandings. We agree that following a communications protocol is essential and would sincerely appreciate if you could provide any more detailed written clarification as to what exactly we could do differently in the future.


Maura Swanson and Karl Haas

Two years later - little had changed and the family was forced out of the school - later filing and winning a lawsuit against Highland Hall:

June 11, 2006

Dear Friends,

We know many of you are deeply upset about the administration's sudden decision to remove our daughter from class, five days before school is over. We have heard that there will be a meeting of all concerned parents on Monday. Because we believe there are always at least two sides to every story, and we have no other way to publicly speak on our behalf, we would like to offer our take on what's happened. We absolutely have no expectation that this will change the decision. If, at the Monday meeting, you are told "It's very complicated - there are a lot of details about these parents that you don't know, but are too difficult to explain", please believe those are the same key details we don't know about either.

If you are going to take the time to attend the Monday meeting, we hope you will also take a few minutes to read this letter. If you're really curious or concerned, this situation does require a prologue.


From June 2003 to January 2004, we repeatedly asked for the school's help in addressing our mounting concerns with our Fifth grade son's teacher, Mrs. Leonard. After a long brutal process, we agreed with the school that our son should not stay in Mrs. Leonard's class, because there was only one other parent besides us that was willing to come forward and say that they felt she was doing inappropriate things to the children. Two days after we came to the conclusion that by Sixth grade we would find another school for our son, Mrs. Leonard decided to teach the children a song involving very graphic violence against women imagery. The College immediately put her on a paid leave of absence. The rest of the semester was filled with a lot of anguishing meetings with many of the parents crying and yelling at various members of the College, insisting Mrs. Leonard didn't deserve the way she was being treated. Ultimately, Mrs. Leonard could not resolve her issues with the College, and chose not to return. Less than a week after school ended, we got a letter from the College telling us that our son could not attend Highland Hall as punishment for our having violated their communications protocol. We were warned that if they perceived we were communicating inappropriately, our daughter would not be allowed to attend Highland Hall. We responded with a three page letter asking for the College to tell us exactly what we did wrong, when throughout the entire process, various committee members had admitted they had made significant mistakes, and thanked us for carefully following their protocol, despite how painful the whole experience was for all concerned. We never got a response to our letter. A few months later, the President of the Board met with us and told us that he had received a copy of our letter and felt it was well-written and clearly deserved a response. Neither he nor Ed Eadon could explain why no one answered us. This past Friday night, two years later, we finally got a response. At nine o'clock, a messenger arrived at our house and handed us a letter, so hastily typed it was not even on school stationery. The letter stated we had ignored the warning that the College had sent in 2004 and violated the communications protocol again. Effective immediately, our daughter is expelled from the class and we are not allowed on campus without a prearranged escort from Ed Eadon.

Apparently there is a strong belief that we have somehow harmed Ms. Taylor. Without knowing exactly what we have been accused of doing to her, we cannot defend or apologize for our alleged actions.

Whoever has decided that we have done something so inappropriate that our child must be immediately removed from the classroom, has yet to inform us of exactly how we were a danger to Ms. Taylor or the community. This time we have been accused of violating a communications protocol regarding water bottles. We were not shown any incriminating evidence, or given any proof of violating this protocol, and ultimately, we have no opportunity to defend ourselves against what we feel is a false accusation.

We have a paper trail of two years of communicating with appreciation, respect and deep enthusiasm for Ms. Taylor. There would be no reason for us to make Ms. Taylor feel threatened by our presence, or the presence of our daughter in her classroom. And again, we have no idea who has told her what piece of information to upset her so much that she cannot tolerate our little girl being in her class for the remaining five days of the school year. Because we had felt so close to Ms. Taylor, we have not a clue why, if she feels we have hurt her, she wouldn't respect us enough to come to us directly to let us know, so we might have a chance to clear up any kind of misunderstanding.

We can only guess that perhaps Ms. Taylor is too exhausted, after an extremely busy year, to be aware of the devastating impact on our child, and the rest of her students. We sympathize with her exhaustion, but then have to ask, who has advised Ms. Taylor to do such a frighteningly harsh thing to our daughter? How is it that the Leadership Team does not need to present us with any scrap of evidence, nor did they offer to bring us together with Ms. Taylor and facilitate a conflict resolution that would allow all of us to work towards a mutual understanding that, according to the handbook, will "result in positive growth for the individuals involved and for the school as a whole"?

If you attend this meeting on Monday, we hope someone will ask the Leadership Team where is the evidence; and did you honestly give these parents a chance to resolve whatever conflict has happened? Who is supervising the Leadership Team to make sure they have followed some kind of legitimate process that can warrant such harsh consequences for an eight year old child?

Our family has invested in this school since 1994 - longer than many people on the board, the faculty and the administration. About three weeks ago, our daughter made a book that was all about Ms. Taylor, complete with illustrations. Ms. Taylor seemed so delighted that she showed it to many colleagues and asked to borrow it for the weekend. A month ago, we were profusely thanking Ms. Taylor for an outstanding evening presentation she gave to the parents. We felt genuinely connected to her and inspired and grateful for her many efforts, and she seemed sincerely touched by our enthusiastic response.

We simply do not know what has happened to change this relationship. We have called Ms. Taylor to ask for clarification, but have yet to have our phone call returned.

If an anonymous person can secretly accuse our family of doing something so terrible that it results in our innocent child being expelled, but we don't even know what specifically is being said, or who said it - then there is no way we can clear up any miscommunication.

Is it possible that there are people on the Leadership Team or the Faculty or the Administration who still harboring resentment towards us about issues involving ancient history - absolutely. When you have been at this school as long as we have, it is inevitable that for every friend you have made, there's at least one person you've unintentionally offended, and at least two who have accidentally offended you.

It would be so much easier to believe we actually did something terrible, because no intelligent person can accept such an irrational action, especially when it is so deliberately devastating to a young child. What kind of story will be told to the children to find a wholesome way to explain this awful situation so that they won't be frightened? If it can happen to their friend,who they know "has never had her name on the board or been kicked out of class or caused any problem", then how does the school reassure the other students and their parents that this won't happen to them?

We came to this school because we believed that a Waldorf education was the best way to nurture our children. We are leaving shocked, and somewhat shattered, but still very grateful for all the wonderful friends we have met. It is profoundly sad to know our child is not entitled to properly say good-bye. She is worried that her friends will think she has done something really bad. It is hard to believe that we are not allowed to attend next week's graduation of so many children we've known since Kindergarten, nor may we participate in any future functions at a place where we spent so much energy building and contributing to the welfare of the school. What we couldn't always give in cash, we always gave in sweat equity and we got to know many wonderful people in the process. Our oldest daughter, Olivia, went from Kindergarten through Eighth grade here. Just last week, Mrs. Edwards was trying to help her find summer employment. Olivia loved attending the plays, concerts, fairs and assemblies and helped decorate for the Father-Daughter dance, even though she is not enrolled here. She has been looking forward to being in the audience when her friends and former classmates will graduate next year. Now she can't step foot on campus ever again and cannot understand how this could happen. We have never heard of a community, other than perhaps extreme fundamentalists, who would abruptly excommunicate an entire family based on unsubstantiated hearsay.

Thank you to everyone who has called (you possibly violated the communications protocol by doing so). We truly and deeply found so much comfort in you reaching out to us. Without your kind words, this would be almost unbearable.

Until our paths meet again, we wish you many blessings. Your friendship will never be forgotten.

Maura Swanson and Karl, Olivia, Wesley and Lilly Haas

Another parent - after molestation incident:

July 5, 2001

To the College of Teachers:

At the meeting held Friday, June 22, 2001 I suggested you be kind to yourselves in the wake of your decisions regarding how you handled the Wendy and Jeffrey Wilkins debacle. For those of you not in attendance, I uncharacteristically went against the angry tide and tried to soothe your collective pain with, “No one had a crystal ball. You couldn’t possibly have known what would happen.” I would like to retract that statement now. After two weeks I have found many new facts that obliterate my sympathy. With a modicum of effort you could have had a whole lot of information about the appropriateness of Wendy as a class teacher and a pretty good guess as to what can happen when sexual offenders are left unchecked. With one small phone call from one of our own third grade parents to the Santa Barbara school and one phone call back, we uncovered not only history of Wendy’s incompetence as a teacher, but of Jeffrey’s sexual deviance. Wendy’s visa complications alone due to her admitted misdemeanor for breaking and entering should have been enough to raise an eyebrow, but by the neglect of the most obvious step in any hiring process-- running a cursory background check at even her most previous job where she had been fired, no less -- you put my children at unfathomable risk.
In January, you again had the opportunity to do the right thing and failed. When Jeffrey propositioned Cameron, did you then wonder enough to call the Santa Barbara school to find out about Wendy and her son’s past? If you didn’t, why not? And if you did and you got the information that we so easily accessed, God have mercy. You shared with us that you were given legal counsel to protect Jeffrey because he was a minor, but what about the other hundreds of children that were at risk under your care as students of the school? Isn’t that why you sit on the College? Aren’t you a body set up to look after the well being of the students? What about the dozens of children who have newly come forward and will forever bear the scars of those solicitations in the log cabin, those propositions on the play structure, those lewd images he passed to them in the library, the graphic and terrible lexicon that he wove into their games that is now imprinted on their little souls? I heard some third grade children talk about Wendy leaving Jeffrey alone in the classroom with them where he dropped his pants. I’ve heard he whipped it out as well in after-school care. I know that he offered money and toys in exchange for the children to play his “baby” and “cream” games and was successful in getting at least one child to touch his penis, who then in turn challenged the others in attendance to smell his “stinky hand.” My educated guess would suppose more were a part, that don’t dare come forward even if their parents are gentle and round about in their questioning. My daughter absolutely refuses to discuss with my husband or me something that one of her classmates told her at a sleepover recently. The pointed threats of secrecy have now made their way into my daughter’s lifelong openness with me. And there are others. What about these children bearing the most silent scars?
You made Wendy sign a contract that her son would be under close and constant supervision when visiting campus. What were you thinking? Wendy sent our children unescorted to the lower parking lot to retrieve items from her truck. She sent them up into trees twenty feet above ground by the amphitheater without an adult in sight. Daily she sent students outside the door for punishment with Jeffrey often hanging close by. How in heaven’s name did you think she could keep an eye on her teenage son? And what if the poor dear had to use the rest room while at school? Did you really think she’d escort him in there too? Is your world so insulated that you’ve never heard of children being molested time and again in the “privacy” of public restrooms? And then I heard at the June 22nd meeting that you hadn’t even told the rest of the school staff so that they could keep an eye on Jeffrey even if Wendy couldn’t? You couldn’t even trust your peers with your information. That seems awfully telling.
We heard tale in the meeting that Wendy was visibly upset when Jeffrey showed up at the school without her knowing that he was coming, but I’m beginning to feel it was more out of fear that her job would be jeopardized rather than that our children’s safety might be compromised. I first wondered if maybe this woman was working on a grave plane of denial, but let’s look at the facts. This is the woman who invited the children of her colleagues, as was shared at our own third grade meeting, to come to her house to “rest” between school and the evenings’ activities (namely our third grade play) and was left alone to play with Jeffrey. This is much deeper than denial. This is entrapment. But whether she was setting up to test her son’s mettle or our children’s survival skills really doesn’t matter. Her gross culpability has been clearly drawn and those children will never be the same.
I can’t begin to guess what part of you chose to ignore the enormous red flags to first bring in Mrs. Wilkins and then later to have her sign an impossibly generous contract rather than risk a libel suit, but I’m guessing it was not the heart to which I was drawn when I first came here. As the mother of a nine year-old, a six year-old and a seven month old, you may think that my association with Highland Hall is brief, but it was more than fifteen years ago I came to this school to do research for a play I was writing. I was so swept up by all the beauty that I encountered in this haven I vowed that if I was blessed with children someday; they would come here for their education. At that time I was recovering from my own wounds of a stalking, kidnapping, and abuse at the hands of a sexually deviant man, and I was heartened by the promise that here was a place far away from the violence and fear that had pulsed within my breast each day since the initial assault. Clearly, I was mistaken.
No place can offer complete sanctuary from the holds of a world gone wrong, but never again will I blindly put my children in a place that doesn’t make every effort to keep them protected when I can’t be there to do it myself. I take full responsibility for that classic dilemma of a victim/survivor; a desire to empathize and over trust to make all the hurt and pain go away as expediently as possible. But I would like to warn you, if you think these children that have been left in Jeffrey’s wake are “just fine,” or unaffected by what he has done to them, I caution you to rethink the impact of Cameron’s statement shared tearfully by his mother, Merrie, at the June 22nd meeting. Upon learning that Wendy’s contract had been terminated because “she needed to take care of Jeffrey”, Cameron said, “Oh, Mommy, if that boy that hurt Jeffrey only knew how much pain he’s caused, he would feel so bad!” Cameron feels anguish for Jeffrey and his alleged first perpetrator and the pain goes on and on and on. I’ve also seen this misplaced concern in the letter that you were offering a severance package to Wendy. Stop this madness. Isn’t it time to take care of the real victims here?
Please step up now and acknowledge the harm you have done to our children by your negligence and fear. Stop looking at how the school can grow out (into new buildings) and look at how you might grow inside from this horrible ordeal. And to that end I offer this from Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his essay “Self Reliance.”

These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint
and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in
conspiracy against the manhood of everyone of its members. Society
is a joint-stock company, in which members agree, for the better
securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty
and the culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity.
Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but
names and customs.
Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who
would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of
goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last
sacred but the integrity of your own mind.

I would have given my right arm for just one of you to have been brave enough to listen to your heart when it shouted back in January that it was wrong, that a crime had been committed against one of your colleague’s own little boys, and stood up to say it was dishonest and dangerous allowing that secret to remain so closely guarded. I, too, was advised by the police, the District Attorney, and various counsels not to press charges against my attacker because he was a well connected man in this town with a future as bright as my own. And like you having to hold the hurt of those children in your heart, I bear the scars of a bad decision when I heard my attacker had gone on to rape more beyond me; people whose lives would forever after be marred but a heinous act of violence. But you, unlike I, still have the opportunity in your statute of limitations to at least stop this pain from going further. You must do right by those children that were already hurt and you must stop counseling your peers to keep quiet. You must ask them to share with others the horrible acts that have unfolded so that it may never, ever happen again. You must help them find the way to report it to the proper authorities and insist that Jeffrey be given counseling and stick with it and that every school that he attends from here on out have record of his propensity toward sexual inappropriateness. You must also find a way to keep Wendy from ever putting children at risk again. And then you must again, most finally and no less importantly, return your attention to the children left in your care or let someone else into your inner sanctum that can do the job as it should be done. It’s not enough to pray this away. It’s time for you do the right thing.
And I must now do what I consider the right thing for my children too. I have no trust left for my initial instincts in entrusting you with my children. Kai and Ruby graduated blissfully from the dreamy world of Janet, Liis, and Laura. And you have taken away the only other two at the school that I have utterly loved, when you sent Andrew away against our class’ protest and shuffled Christine to put out the other fire. So now, I have no desire to keep them on the once hallowed grounds of my naive dreams at Highland Hall with an impossible hope that this time you’ll get it right. I can assure you Kai will be devastated not to go up the hill with the rest of the little kings in his class, to not join in the rose ceremony and someday play for the Hawks as he and his friends have vowed. Ruby’s dreams of growing into the big yard, being in the school musical, playing in the orchestra, helping her little sister Violet up the hill will be dashed as well, but I simply cannot bring my children back to a place that seems to have forgotten what brought us all together in the first place ... the children.
I am so sorry that this is where we go our separate ways. I have never fancied myself as a quitter, but for my children, I will do anything to give them the world of hope, trust and safety that was torn from me far too young. I bid you well in your journey of healing.


Jane Sibbett 

The following letter was drawn up and circulated by several parents in an attempt to reform Highland Hall after they broke mandated reporting laws to cover up inappropriate sexual contact by the son of Waldorf teacher Wendy Wilkins.

June 26, 2001

College of Teachers & Board of Directors DRAFT
Highland Hall Waldorf School
17100 Superior St.
Northridge, CA 91325

Dear Members of the College & Board:

On Friday, June 22, 2001, we participated in (or have been told about) a meeting held at school that covered many difficult issues surrounding actual and potential exposure to inappropriate/harrassing sexual commentary and propositions that a number of the children at our school experienced from Jeffrey Wilkins, the teenage son of then 3rd Grade Teacher, Wendy Wilkins. It is our understanding that Ms. Wilkins will no longer be teaching at Highland Hall and that efforts are being made to help Ms. Wilkins and her son get the professional help that they and their family need.

The meeting lasted four hours and only ended because people became exhausted. All acknowledged the need to continue to discuss the various issues that these events have raised. Understanding that the College of Teachers has spent enormous amounts of time and personal energy dealing with this situation, and hearing an appeal for help in leading the community through this difficult time, we have taken it upon ourselves to outline some potential next steps for the College and Board to consider:

1. Investigation & Discovery and Recovery: Many people felt that before they would be able to contemplate the future, it is critical to understand more fully what actually happened, to the extent it can be learned. Also, in order to improve our process for dealing with, and ideally preventing, incidents of this nature, we must understand what was done this time, what reasoning went into the decisions that were made and the results of the choices that we collectively made.

As follow-up to the guidelines suggested by the Valley Trauma Center, we recommend that a meeting be set to which all people who have since spoken with their child and who have direct knowledge concerning incidents involving Jeffrey and their child that could be shared to the benefit of others would be encouraged to attend. The meeting should be facilitated by the Valley Trauma Center personnel. The purpose of the meeting would be to create a timeline of events that is as complete and accurate as possible. These events would include incidents involving Jeffrey, parents notifying school authorities of such incidents, the school’s communication(s) with Ms. Wilkins regarding the situation and any other actions taken in regards to the situation. People with such direct knowledge who are unable to attend in person would be encouraged to provide whatever information they had to offer in writing prior to the meeting.

In order for the meeting to be most productive and to try and limit the potential for a raging forest fire of hearsay, we suggest that every family and faculty/staff member be sent a letter explaining the purpose of the meeting and a description of the recommended process for discussing the situation with their children. It would probably make sense to enclose the handout from the Valley Trauma Center. The emphasis would be on calmly eliciting the facts, reassuring the children if they need to share difficult or embarrassing information and helping the children affirm their own power for any potential future incidents of this nature. The goal is to avoid the inadvertent creation of misinformation in the quest for the needed information to allow healing to be assisted and improved processes to be developed.

The following people are willing to help with drafting the mailing to the community, arranging the meeting time in coordination with the Valley Trauma Center personnel and arranging the logistics for the meeting: (please let me know if you would like your name added here)

2. New 4th Grade Teacher Search & Future Teacher Searches: Many parents in the upcoming 4th Grade feel that it would enhance the process of selecting the next teacher for the class if the College had the benefit of parent opinion, as well as all of the other factors the College takes into consideration when selecting a new teacher. We recommend that a new Search Advisory Committee be selected by the College from a pool of volunteer parents from throughout the school. This Advisory Committee would review the resume and any other information available on any teacher candidate under serious consideration by the College, interview the candidate from the perspective of parents, rather than colleagues, and give its impression and any areas of recommended further investigation back to the College as part of the College’s due diligence process. We would recommend that Advisory Committee members recuse themselves when the teacher candidate is for their own child’s class.

The following people are willing to work with whomever the College mandates to do whatever letter writing, recruiting and other legwork necessary to bring the formation of this committee about: Alex Wright, David Cohen (please let me know if you would like your name added here)

3. Changes to Current Community Practices to Better Protect the Children Under the School’s Care: In order to realize the opportunity inherent in these unfortunate and painful events, we as a community need to grow and change. Many questions and ideas have been put forth regarding notification, education, faculty/staff training, etc. In order for these questions and ideas to be more fully discussed and lead to actual changes in the practices of our school community, we recommend that a committee from the broad community be formed to discuss these issues in depth, solicit ideas from professional resources, such as the Valley Trauma Center and/or other communications facilitators, and discuss with College members what kinds of guidelines and principals govern College decisions. With this education and opportunity for discussion, the committee would formulate and present recommendations to the Board and College for consideration.

The following people are willing to work with whomever the College mandates to do whatever letter writing to the community and other legwork necessary to bring the formation of this committee about: Alex Wright, Lynne Moses (please let me know if you would like your name added here)

We all appreciate that Highland Hall is more than a school, that it is a social community for the families that make up the students, parents, faculty, staff, College and Board of the school. We also recognize that much of the work that is typically handled by a larger administration in other schools is instead handled by faculty members volunteering to serve on the College at Highland Hall. Therefore, the work of those in positions of authority in running the school extends far beyond the usual demands of school governance. For this reason, we recognize that we all need to do our part in bringing about social change and supporting the College and Board in your work. We sincerely hope that these suggestions are taken in that spirit of responsibility and loving support.


David Cohen
Ayelet Cohen
Alex Wright
Ben Moses
Lynne Moses
(Please let me know if you would like to add your name here)

cc: Parent Association

Below are two of my own letters.  You can read lots more of my communications with Highland Hall on my other blog Waldorf Awareness.

Dear Evaluation Committee,

I'm sure you may have noticed by now that Mrs. Leonard is supported by some very rude, pushy and controlling parents who are acting out of their strong emotions and ultimately their denial of what has transpired with Mrs. Leonard. They claim to be the majority of the class. By now, I suppose they are. The many parents who removed their children or were pushed out by Mrs. Leonard have not been considered in their calculations. Many people have already removed their children from this school because of Mrs. Leonard's actions. Others still intend to.

The facts and Mrs. Leonard's actions speak for themselves. The safety and well-being of the children is at risk and I believe each and every one of you knows this. You made the right decision when you suspended Mrs. Leonard. It was a difficult decision made from your hearts, not based on numbers or opinions. When she defiantly sang the "abuse" song, over the objections of some parents, you knew in your hearts that she had done something too wrong to be overlooked. I am told some people suggested that the school could "gummy bear" the song by suggesting that it is somehow brings "archetypal" images to the class. You all have read the song, what do you think?

I know it took courage to come to your decision, and particularly in light of the fact that I pointed these things out publicly. I openly and publicly applauded your courage when you made the right decision. Now, on the verge of a possible reversal of your decision, I ask you to summon the same courage - to do what is right.

Please don't let a bunch of hot-headed parents blur your common sense. You have a primary obligation to the CHILDREN, not to the parents or the teachers. You are educators - start acting like it. Shame on you if you cannot muster the courage to stand up and say "This is wrong and it will not be tolerated."

The children, I am told, have accepted Mrs. Ferreccio wholeheartedly. She is the continuity they need right now. She is a loving and warm teacher who challenges the children intellectually and who is responsive to their needs. She can heal this class and easily take them through the end of the year. Bringing Mrs. Leonard back now would be extremely harmful and painful to the children and would continue to divide the parents and the school. Let's heal this now. Please stick to your decision to suspend Mrs. Leonard and let's please move on. It is, after all, the right thing to do.

Thank you,

Pete Karaiskos

Dear Evaluation Committee,

First, let me say that I am waiting to hear from someone representing Highland Hall that my son Christopher was sent home last week. I shouldn't have to insist that the school inform me of incidents involving my own children but, nonetheless, I am having to do this. This has happened often enough that I suspect people at Highland Hall are deliberately withholding information from me regarding my children and in some instances I know this to be fact. I am weary of hearing about things like this second-hand and would encourage the school to share information pertaining to my children with me freely and promptly.

I have discussed the events surrounding Christopher's suspension with him, with other children in his class who witnessed the events and with his teacher, Mrs. Knight. I am convinced that the circumstances under which he was sent home are, at the very least, suspect. Everyone I have spoken to insists that Christopher did nothing extrodinary that would suggest that he should be sent home for the day and was, rather, the recipient of the specialty teacher's emotions over a bad day. I would like to hear from this committee what the circumstances were and what he did that warranted his suspension. Furthermore, and on a much larger scale, I would like this committee to review with me the school's policy of permitting specialty teachers to send children home.

I fully acknowledge that specialty teachers have a difficult job and that often children prove to be a handful for them. I am painfully aware of how difficult it is to find teachers who will perform well under the challenge of personal problems or difficult children. This is, however, their job and they have a responsibility to the children, to the parents and to the school to do their job well. Specialty teachers are responsible for their class and I don't want to devalue that responsibility. However, the children's class teacher is, by intent, the teacher who is supposed to be the best judge of the children's overall behavior, their struggles in their own personal growth and other challenges they my be facing in their personal lives. The class teacher is the one who knows what is on the child's mind (that may be manifesting in poor behavior) and it is the class teacher should be the one who decides whether a child should be sent home. A specialty teacher is not, and should not be, in a position to decide on this form of discipline. Certainly, they should be able to dismiss a child from their class, but a child sent home by a specialty teacher will miss all their studies for the entire day. Quite frankly, I would be happier to have Christopher miss a year of eurythmy than a day of math. Undoubtedly, this is far to much responsibility for the specialty teacher to have and ultimately it hurts the children and reflects poorly on the school.

I look forward to your reply.


Pete Karaiskos

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Parent Experiences from Waldorf Watch

"Then there's the issue of pedophiles. They are everywhere and are by no means
peculiar to Waldorf schools. The problem at our school was that there were
several incidents and the teachers failed to obey the laws that protect children
from abuse."

"I continue to ponder why it all happened. How did I almost destroy my daughter
by choosing to send her to an apparently caring, art-based, beautiful small
private school? How could people who appeared to be good friends suddenly turn
on us and later forget we exist?"

"...There are those within the Anthroposophy/Waldorf movement who believe their
own public relations are less than forthright. There are some who feel as
frustrated at the deceptive marketing and misleading information as the parents
do who make the gut wrenching decision to pull children from their school. This
is not a decision parents take without much thought, sadness and trepidation. In
most cases, however, the decision simply must be made. Something is wrong. The
education the parents were sold was simply not the education their children
received. Beautiful, gentle, arts based, natural type of education has very
little in common with a spiritual movement based on the religious/occult
theories of one man and his followers."

"Unfortunately we experienced the school to be a highly religious sect with no
respect whatsoever for legal contracts, and with no continuing professional
development, and [no commitment] to what we regard to be social responsibility.
In very subtle ways, and with a mild and friendly smile, they assure you that
the children's education is in the best of hands. But, as time showed us, their
teacher-training consists exclusively of the spiritual fantasies of one single
man [i.e., Rudolf Steiner]. And having done teaching there ourselves, we found
their curriculum not comparable to what is required from the state, nor [is it
what they] claimed.

The Waldorf teachers claim that [during their lives before birth] children
choose their parents. This is not, as we believed, a lovely birthday fairy tale
to be told in the kindergarten, it is their religious belief. Literally. It took
a long time before we were able to understand why children clearly in need of
intervention by social services were not helped out of their miserable
situation, until we realized how the school neglected their legal responsibility
when other parents took action and reported directly to the authorities."

Steiner Waldorf Problems with Special Needs Children

Steiner Waldorf Problems

I found your site very useful; thanks. The help it has given us with dyslexia
and learning strategies is thoughtful, practical, and for us, invaluable.

I wasn't sure which forum to write in, as one of our children has dyslexia. My
main reason for posting is to comment on Steiner education, which is often seen
as a haven for those with dyslexia, or the not so academic because of it's so
called concentration on creativeness and craft.

Since leaving this ''community'' we've found out so much , the things the
school's PR take great trouble to cover up. Steiner Waldorf education isn't
really about giving children knowledge, arming them with a desire to question
and extend their flare for curiosity. It's about seeing them through their
''incarnation'', helping them with the ''karmic'' lessons they need in this
life, in order for them to reincarnate on a higher spiritual plane in the next.

Yes, it sounds bonkers, it is bonkers.

We thought the Steiner system would be creative, liberal and give scope for our
children's individual talents and characters; it was a disaster, rigid, boring,
copied restricted work, following frankly bizarre and dangerous beliefs. (It is
based on anthroposophy, the teachers often had no qualifications apart from
Steiner training, which is nearly all done with Steiner's work. The
educationalist David Mollet calls it brainwashing and indoctrination)

Consequently our children have taken much time and effort to catch up; dyslexia
isn't recognised except as an ''incarnation problem''. Everything is about
karma. Our youngest was encouraged to change from being left handed, and had to
do things right handed (left handedness is to do with a weakness in a past
life), children are classified by medieval ''temperaments''- melancholic,
phlegmatic etc, which, along with their race and roots, dictates how the teacher
treats them.

One of our children has had esteem problems because bullying was more or less
ignored (it is seen as karma).

After doing some research, we discovered that the same problems we had, happen
in Steiner Waldorf schools all over the world. Some of these people's
experiences can be read in the article section here.

We withdrew our daughter from a Steiner school in class 5 ( year 6 )after her
class teacher labelled her a unwilling to cooperate. Through class 2/3 we
questioned her academic progress,we were told by her teacher and some parents
told us to trust the system and that she was doing well and was a lovely child.
A new teacher arrived in class 4 . She told us our child had multiple issues and
was terribley behaved. We know realise she has mild dyslexia and dyspraxia and
needs some specific teaching. The Steiner school did nothing but condemn our
child as the problem. They have totally betrayed our trust and loyalty.

Waldorf and ADHD

Three years after our family left the Waldorf school our daughter was diagnosed
with ADHD. This may explain the severity of some of her problems. The condition
makes her highly sensitive and this probably made her a magnet for bullying. It
also meant she had difficulty with concentrating and sitting still during

However, it doesn't change her story. She may have been more vulnerable to
bullying than the average child, but the school made no attempt to resolve this,
in fact on one occasion a teacher told me that 'She asked for it.' She may have
been difficult in class, but was her teacher's response, to make her stand in
the corner for rest of the lesson, an appropriate one? The school also refused
to allow her psychiatrist to observe her in class which may have helped to get
her diagnosed. The school's opinion was always that Joanna's behaviour was
because she was emotionally disturbed because of problems in her home life.

I am now very worried that some Waldorf schools, are saying that Steiner
education is especially good for ADHD children. While I agree that the
structured day of the Kindergarten did suit Joanna well, once in Class 1 the
Steiner system, in retrospect, was most unsuitable. The 2 hour main lesson must
have seemed like torture to her.

Most importantly, my daughter was asked to leave because of her behaviour. Some
of it may well have been due to her ADHD and a lot to the reaction of the other
pupils to her ADHD and the fact that the teacher could not cope with her. I am
amazed that, in spite of this, Waldorf schools, including the one our family
attended, are claiming to be especially suited to ADHD children. At least one
other ADHD child was asked to leave this school. It seems they are not good at
coping with this special need. I would have hoped that at least they had learned
this, but it seems that is not the case.

ADHD children are particularly bad at coping with rejection. Schools should
never go out of their way to attract them unless they are as sure as they can be
of their commitment to the child and of their ability to meet their needs. The
Waldorf school Joanna attended was totally unable to meet her needs. She went on
to an ordinary village primary where they did cope. Even though she was still
undiagnosed they helped her immensely and never felt the need to blame us or to
call her emotionally disturbed.

General Discussion about Waldorf Schools

We sent our daughter to Waldorf in Emeryville, lo those many years ago (1993). Maybe we were out of our minds (we were victims of the east bay "firestorm" and were in the middle of a three year nomadic period in which we moved 7 times and were forced to sue the insurance company or face starting all over from zero with toddler twins and two teen-agers. Yes, our decision to send her there may have been unbalanced).

What attracted us was an active music program and a certain global, intellectual/educational curiosity on the part of the teachers. It looked good. We tried to ignore our initial gut reaction that the staff and dedicated parents seemed all to exude an eerie, "Landru is All. Are you part of the body?" syndrome. We felt like alien hyper-intellectuals. Firstly, they misrepresented themselves. We asked explicitly about the religious nature of the school and were told that, though they were, in some tangential way, a "Christian" organization, historically, there was no theological/religious bias. Around the winter vacation, our daughter came home, rattled, and in tears.

"I don't understand," she said. "At school, they told us that the child is coming and everything will be o.k."

"Who's the child?" we asked her.

"I think it's a boy in the other kindergarten class. He's in a play about the saviour. Is he the saviour? Why is everything going to be all right? Why is he coming again? He didn't even come into our class once."

oh boy.

We marched off to school and asked what was going on. The answers were feeble and meandering, at best. It was evident that they had no clue of the effect of their "tangential" Christian metaphoric roots on growing young children.

Then there was the Landru effect. They really did have an image of children being these innocent little waifs, happy, serene receptacles into which their teachers might pour an entire Waldorf world-view. The rigidity of materials used in class, the dim lighting, the low energy level....were geared to kids with low metabolic function who were, by nature, obedient, malleable and unquestioning. O.K. My obvious bias is showing. I recognize that. It wasn't long before the teacher took us aside and suggested that since our daughter wanted to explore outside the prescribed lines, question the logic of instructions, and pretty much, follow her own creative, exuberant curiosities (that different drummer), she must be hyper-active and have oppositional problems. Hmmmm. I understand that the Waldorf systems in Europe are not so rigid or sanctimonious, so lecturing or idiopathic. And I hear that even in the states, the severity of the intellectual/spiritual anti-gravity effect differs from school to school. But, gee whiz, if your child is an independent thinker and a vibrant personality, I would recommend against Waldorf.

Oh, I forgot: They have a mystical ceremony on a child's birthday. There are a lot of candles lit, and the birthday kid sits in a chair across from the parents, separated by a bridge. The teacher explains that the angel child, before it was born, selected the two perfect parents, and then after much mystic m-bo jm-bo, crossed over this ethereal bridge to join its parents in the physical world. Then this bridge-crossing is acted out. There was a hitch in our ceremony, because our daughter, while lighting the candles along the bridge, caught her hair on fire. It was hard to return to the ethereal, metaphoric plain after rolling her in a towel and drying her tears. Still, that weird smell of burning hair.........."happy birthday to you....happy birthday to you...happy biRTHday......".

This was kindergarten. I shall give them the benefit of the doubt in suspecting that this kind of air-headedness subsides as the children get older. This has been simmering in me for a number of years. I apologize for the strength of my opinions if they have offended anyone. But this has been completely honest. I am also very sure that there are inquisitive, gifted and unusual children who are suited very well to the Waldorf atmosphere. I also hear that the dogmatic, religious adherence to Waldorfian principles varies from school to school.


Feb 2002 There are good things about some parts of Waldorf- teaching to the whole child, but and it's a big But there are some parts that aren't too great. Academically I worry about the level and quality of academics. While some schools may really overemphasize reading- Waldorf isn't very fast on the draw with reading. On the surface, this sounds ok- but in reality, your child may not have the emphasis put on reading that he or she should have. Math is another weak area- I have concerns about math teaching. While there are great classes such as eurhythmics (movement) taught, the curriculum is not clearly articulated. Parents are not, and I mean not encouraged to give their feedback on curriculum. The school believes that they, and only they know the appropriate methods for teaching children and they definitely, have no interest in parents giving input into curriculum. Hope this helps anonymous 

Parent Sorry for Trusting Waldorf\

I have posted about some of our experiences in this forum before so I have been
hesitating writing about them again. Just in case there are some who have not
read them, I will try to describe as quickly as I can what happened to us. Just
to save time I have pasted parts of my old posts, so sorry for the repetion for
those of you who have read my them before.
So here I go………….
My son started a Waldorf Kindergarten at age 3 ½ (at this particular school they
had the preschool and Kindergarten in one class). Because we moved he went to
another Waldorf school when he was 5 and ½.
When it was time to go to first grade, at age 6 and ½ he was unable to focus in
the classroom of 20 children. He had difficulty following the teacher's
instructions and had a hard time sitting still. Also his drawing was not the
same level as most of his peers. After a month he was deemed to be too"
immature" to stay in first grade and was sent back in Kindergarten. At the time
I did not question the decision. I trusted them.
Staying back in Kindergarten was a big mistake. My son became very unruly,
disruptive and refused to participate in the activities. In particular he hated
all the circle games and eurhythmy. All this only made the Waldorf teachers even
more convinced that my son was still not ready for first grade.
We finally got outside help and took my son to see an occupational therapist who
confirmed that he had both fine and gross motor skill delays known as dyspraxia
resulting from sensory integration problems. Sensory over stimulation also
explained why my son could not focus in the first grade classroom. It was not
because he was too immature, but because there was too much stimulation in the
Waldorf classrooms. The set up, which is rows of desks with the teacher in the
front and lots of copying from the blackboard, is not an idea setting for allot
of children.
It was one of kindergarten teachers who first suggested that my son see an
Occupational therapist. However once he started going to one she disapproved of
what the occupational therapist did. The OT usually liked to visit the schools
of the children she was treating to see how they were doing and then give the
teachers advise, but my son's teachers refused to even allow her to visit the
class room! Anyway just a few weeks before my son's 7th birthday some so called
Waldorf "expert" on children with learning problems saw him and maintained that
my son STILL was not ready to go to first grade! She (the "expert") even made
fun of the OTs report saying, "what is dyspraxia? I can't even pronounce it!"
Her only advice was that he was not incarnating properly into his body and he
would have to go to a Waldorf school for children with special needs This was
the final straw for me. I never took our son back to that kindergarten again.
We put our him in a Montessori School instead. He continued seeing the
Occupational therapist. My son made wonderful improvements. To my great relief
the Montessori teachers have had no problem getting him to learn and to follow
and do the work. Within a few months he learned to read and write, do basic
addition and subtraction. And he loved it! Everyone who knew him commented on
how much happier my son seemed after I pulled him out of the Waldorf school.
His Montessori teachers all shook their heads in disbelief over the fact that he
was held back in Kindergarten another year for they felt he was so ready to
It has been 6 months now. My son is thriving in his new school and all his
behaviour problems are improving. I am still getting used to him not being
considered a "problem" anymore! I look back and it is so clear that Waldorf was
so, so wrong for him. I see he was bored in Kindergarten and angry for being
sent back there. I see it never suited his personality.
In both the Waldorf Kindergartens and the 1st grade there was allot of
unstructured free play with not enough supervision. This was a problem for allot
of children not just my son. From the beginning now I remember parents
complaining about all the bullying going on, kids hitting and getting hit, with
the teachers either saying they were not aware of it or acting like it was not a
problem. I did not want to see it at the time, but it was always there. Waldorf
definitely brought out the "wildness" in my son and I experienced allot of
another children mostly little boys who had difficulties there as well.

So we try to move on and for the most part we have moved on. But I guess I still
keep coming back to this forum because even though everything is getting better,
I still feel anger, sadness and pain.
I feel angry with the teachers for sending my son back to Kindergarten. I feel
angry with my self for going along with it! The move back to Kindergarten really
hurt my son's self esteem and it will be a while before he will catch up
academically. This makes me sad. The Waldorf teachers really made me feel like
the worst mother in the world, like it was my entire fault he was acting up in
the classroom. That really hurt. It really hurts to have people say such
horrible things about your child.
What also hurt is that none of the other parents even bothered to call us when
we left. Afterwards when I ran into any of the parents of my son's former
Waldorf classmates they did not even want to know any thing about my son, that
the child who was once a "problem" was no longer a problem and was now thriving!

Anyway sorry for going on for so long but I really needed to get this out.
Thanks for giving me the chance to vent!