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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Working with Highland Hall - Open Letter to Highland Hall Community

Pete Karaiskos

Open letter to Highland Hall:
The Board of Directors
The College of Teachers
The Administration
The Faculty
The Parent Body

July 4, 2001
Dear Friends,
Highland Hall is a school in a crisis! I have tried unsuccessfully to have faith that things will get better. Recently my faith was, once again, shattered with the recent problems surrounding the employment of Wendy Wilkins. I say "once again" because I have observed a pattern of "faith-shattering" decisions, policies and attitudes for at least two years. What is most distressing to me is that the people exhibiting such poor judgment are the same people who are involved in the education of my children.

Frankly, I am furious at what my children have had to go through regarding their teachers. My son Christopher was misplaced with Mrs. Dimitrova and then, after he was exhibiting some stress, we had him repeat the 2nd grade with Mr. Janczak's class where he thrived. Then we lost Mr. Janczak and he first had Mrs. Leonard, and then ended up with Mrs. Wilkins. Now, he will have yet another teacher to look forward to.

My daughter, [redacted], has been from Miss Atkinson to Mrs. Devries to Mrs. Leonard and it looks like Mrs. Leonard will only be here another year. She, too, will have to adjust to yet another teacher it seems. It was necessary for her to adapt to three different teachers in order for her to complete two grades. At what point can a parent conclude that the school isn't working in the best interest of their children?

Now, none of this would have transpired if not for the senseless firing of Mr. Janczak. I don't think it serves any purpose to stir up old wounds, and I only mention the firing of Mr. Janczak here because it raises the questions of the more relevant issue of trust. I believe we all witnessed a pre-rehearsed school-supported conspiratorial effort to discredit Mr. Janczak in the eyes of the parents of his class. More than a year has gone by and I still don't understand why. The almost unanimous show of support by the parents for their children's teacher counted for nothing. Why not? The light went out of my son's and many of his classmate's eyes when they lost his teacher. How are we parents supposed to trust that the faculty, college, board and administration are working in our children's best interest after this?

I can't understand the hiring of the new 2nd grade teacher - Mrs. DeVries. I can't imagine what could have been going through the mind of the persons who accepted this woman's application, but I can understand that there may not have been very many applicants for the position. Five minutes into the first meeting with Mrs. DeVries, I knew she wasn't qualified to teach at any level, let alone at a Waldorf school and I also knew I didn't want her for my daughter's teacher. I can't imagine the person who would in good conscience make the decision to saddle my child with such an unqualified teacher - theoretically through the eighth grade. I am not going to berate anyone for making a bad decision but I would pose the question - What voice do we as individual parents have when the school selects a teacher that obviously isn't qualified - or wants to remove a teacher who obviously is qualified? What choice do we have but to be united in our voice in order to promote positive change? And in the case where we have united behind a teacher, why wasn't our voice heard?

Concurrent with the hiring of Mrs. DeVries, Mrs. Wilkins was hired. Aside from her
obvious family problems, she was hardly the caliber of teacher she was replacing - that was, again, obvious. Again, maybe there was a shortage of teachers at the time this hiring was going on. Clearly, the school was negligent in researching her background. Clearly, the school may have been less than forthcoming with information about her. It was, apparently, very easy to discover her past history with a few phone calls. The question is - Why weren't these phone calls made? And, if they were made and this information was discovered, why was she hired? And, if she had to be hired, why weren't we, the parents, informed so that we could decide for ourselves whether this teacher was one that we would accept for our children? As a parent affected by the hiring of this inadequate and potentially harmful teacher, I would have preferred to have been informed that NO suitable teacher could be found to take the class. At least that would have been honest on the part of the school and I could have been the one to make the choices affecting my child's education and well-being.

A tremendous trust was broken when the school hired these two teachers. I'm sorry, but I've lost enough faith in this school to consider the possibility that, in light of the fact that a competitive school was being formed by our former teachers, a decision was reached that the issue of filling the teaching spot took precedent over pursuing the questions of incompetence or a potentially dangerous history in the new teacher's background. I can only hope I'm wrong about this.

One might pose another question here. What is it about Highland Hall, a well-established Waldorf School, that doesn't seem to be able to attract the top teachers in the country? When it does attract good teachers, why is it unable to keep them? I believe the problem is internal. I believe there is an undercurrent that is eroding the foundation principles of this school, demoralizing the teachers and isolating the parents. The undercurrent puts what it believes are the needs of the school above the needs of the children. The undercurrent is more concerned about boosting tuition than it is about producing a healthy learning environment. The undercurrent is more concerned with how much money an event will draw than it is about how safe our children will be during the event. And, when something goes wrong, the undercurrent insists that parents only talk directly to the College or Board, and not among themselves.

This undercurrent is something I've noticed - perhaps we've all noticed it. It is quick to discredit a once beloved teacher who chose to move on rather than have their spirit diminished and their ego sucked out of them. The undercurrent expects loyalty - going with the flow. It undermines those that would oppose its force - whether teacher or parent. The undercurrent works beneath the surface, as any good undercurrent should. It doesn't come out and say things in public, it whispers in hallways. It may help us understand why an admired teacher who was fired is actually much better off now because she can be free to pursue her other aspirations. It can instantly comfort us by explaining that a child who was molested on our yard wasn't actually one of our own students, or that a parent who asks for temporary financial help could afford their tuition easily if they would just manage their money better. It swirls around us hoping to envelop us in its flow and to pull us in its direction. It has swept up many of our finest teachers
in its force - teachers who once stood up for their students with dignity, but now bow their heads in shame when parents confront them. Sadly, the light has gone out of their eyes too!

When the undercurrent comes to the surface, it gains momentum through solidarity - as was the case with Mr. Janczak's release. We all saw the undercurrent in action on that evening. They presented a united front - forget whether any of the innuendo tossed around that evening could be substantiated. A few undecided parents who considered leaving the school were immediately separated out and persuaded to stay through some loyalty to the school, or for the sake of their children, or through promises of "things will get better - you'll see". That night the undercurrent got stronger, and things got worse, not better.

Those of us who wrote letters supporting one of our parents who needed tuition assistance felt the instant force of the undercurrent - there was nothing friendly about it - it was strong and fierce with no chance of deviation from its course, it left us no room to take a breath - its purpose was to suck us down and hold us down until we gave in. And, we had to give in didn't we? After all, what choice do we have - the undercurrent holds our children too.

It may be easy for some to label me a troublemaker (no doubt the undercurrent will have a field day with me) simply because I have observed these events and drawn my own conclusions. Now that I have voiced my opinions, I'm sure the undercurrent will discredit me. You, too, may wonder how someone who brings such a negative view be anything but bad for the school. Please believe me when I say that nothing would make me happier than to be completely wrong about everything I have said here. Nothing would make me happier than to have the wonderful, well-balanced school we all expect, instead of the dysfunctional one we've all come to tolerate. I don't mind being labeled a troublemaker, however - better to go against the current of dishonesty than to become part of it. I contend that I am not the one doing harm to Highland Hall.

I believe the undercurrent are good people working within Highland Hall - people that have made their priority what they believe are the needs of the school. Unfortunately this has often proven to be at the cost of the needs of the children. This is not only morally wrong, it is bad business and ultimately detrimental to the school as much as to the children. Although they are well-meaning, I believe these people are doing this school serious harm and it is only by acknowledging what is happening that we can move forward from what are very dark times at Highland Hall.

I would like to challenge these people to acknowledge - if only to themselves - who they are and what they are doing and to please step back or step down. If you don't know whether you are part of the undercurrent, I'll help you discover this for yourself. If you put ANYTHING above the best interests of the children at Highland Hall, you are part of it - so shake yourself off and have a good look. If you are one of the ones who interviewed Mrs. DeVries and didn't notice anything wrong, please step down and let someone else do the interviewing from now on. If you discovered Mrs. Wilkins past history and didn't feel the moral obligation to inform the parents and protect the children of the school, please step aside and let someone else take your place. Whether or not you agreed with the outcome, if you saw nothing wrong with how the meeting of Mr. Janczak's release was conducted,
you are working not for, but in opposition to the good of the school. If you disagree with how things are, but feel pressured to go with the flow - please find a backbone now.

And, if you don't have enough backbone to stand up for what you believe is right, even if it may cause you discomfort among your peers or even cost you your job, please excuse yourselves from teaching our children. We expect, and our children deserve MUCH better!

I don't apologize for being so blunt - I have no time left to waste for my children's sake.

On this Independence Day I think of our forefathers and the suffering they had to endure to stand up for what they believed in, not because it was popular, not because it was easy, but because it was right! It's too late to undo the damage that has been done - and there has been a lot of damage at every level, to our school, to our friends, to our children - but we can avoid more damage by changing direction now. As we each notice the undercurrent that is demoralizing our school, we should be sure to acknowledge it, confront it, and be certain we are not swept unwillingly into its stream. Let's all try to work together to come to terms with what has happened recently and to push for changes so these mistakes (and the decisions that led to them) don't happen again. Let us group together and share our feelings - for in openness and honesty the undercurrent cannot survive. It is my sincere hope to affect a change for a stronger Highland Hall - one in which the requirements of the children take precedent over everything else. This is the
way I envision it and with God's will, the way it will be someday soon.

God bless us all,
Pete Karaiskos

Working with Highland Hall - Pete gets ambushed

Dear Seventh Grade Parents,

I have been warned not to post messages here or I will continue to be isolated from your class. Threats don't work on me.

Those of you who were at the class meeting last week had the opportunity to see our school at its worst. Here was a case of the school isolating a single parent for discrediting, gossip, slander and isolation. If it could happen to me, it could happen to you. For anyone who is puzzled at what happened at the class meeting, here it is - plain and simple.

The leadership team consists of 5 people. Three are parents in our class - the remaining two are kindergarten/nursery teachers. Those who know me know that I am connected by marriage to the kindergarten. Also, reading through my previous posts on OpenWaldorf, you will see I have had a very difficult time with at least one member of the leadership team - and one of our teacher's mentors, and that I have criticized the leadership team in general since its formation. This sets the stage for me to be silenced.

When the leadership team decided to take over the 7th grade, I made a fuss about the mechanics class I had planned. Parents are allowed to provide expertise in classes - this helps the children considerably. When the kids were learning about electricity, I planned field trips for them to an electric lamp factory and an electric guitar factory. Other parents are providing expertise in the class play and so on. But, for some reason, I was excluded from the mechanics class. I had a sense of why that was, but wasn't sure.

Next came the camping trip. I have been taking this class (as have many other parents) on camping trips since the 2nd grade. I missed last year and many kids complained - making me promise to take them this year. Not only do I cook for them, I lead them on hikes and lead them in activities, and in some cases, I've planned the entire trip. When a child wakes up in the middle of the night and needs to use the restroom, they are more likely to wake me to take them than their own teacher. That's the way it is - your kids love me and trust me - and I love every one of them. Yet, the leadership team, in its wisdom, decided to intercede and take over the camping trip - apparently, now, for the sole purpose of excluding me from the trip. I alerted our teacher and one of his mentors that I would be asking why I was excluded from the trip at the class meeting. This set up what you saw that night.

When I posed the question to our teacher, he passed the question to his mentor - this one is my daughter's godmother (I mention this because not knowing this, one would have a difficult time understanding exactly how painful this was for me). It was explained in front of all the parents that because of my participation on OpenWaldorf, I have been excluded from the camping trip. There it is - plain and simple. Some parents don't trust me and won't send their children on the trip if I go - because I criticize the school. And, having made that accusation in front of all the parents, the mentor and other leadership team members invited me to take the discussion outside. I did. What ensued was a horrible outpouring of emotions. I'm not at all surprised that the leadership team would do this - Waldorf critics have a name for this behavior, it is called "love bombing" and happens all the time.

That parents would support this, however, is astonishing to me. In our discussions outside the classroom, I really couldn't understand what I had done wrong - or what I could change about my behavior that would make me a better person. No parent has supported this class more than I have. My criticism is of the school. That the leadership team would interfere in a class trip that was already planned, in order to remove one parent for political reasons is exactly why I criticize Highland Hall. I was told that this action had the support of some of the parents. Despite my problems with Highland Hall, I have opened my heart to this class - and it's a big heart, unfortunately, a big heart is an easy target and Highland Hall has hit it right on the mark. Frankly, I wouldn't want my children around parents who are so underhanded and dishonest - and don't have the courage to even identify themselves (not that I don't know who they are). Parents who would support the school in this type of activity are just as much a part of what's wrong with Highland Hall as the Leadership Team that sits around thinking up ways to exclude a good parent from a particular activity. Shame on you.

Last week was the May faire, and I attended with a bit of a heavy heart. Then I saw the smiling face of one of our teachers. A teacher who *struck a child*. No guilt, no heavy heart - the teacher could mingle around the faire without a care in the world. I'm watching this teacher and I'm thinking to myself - what's wrong with this picture? And the answer came to me. Only in the warped lenses of Highland Hall, would this paradox exist - a good parent who has never uttered a hurtful word to anyone's child should have a heavy heart while a teacher who struck a child has a light one. This absurdity gave me renewed courage to take up my pen and continue my efforts to bring Highland Hall to reality. Highland Hall's behavior is absurd, their leaders are dysfunctional and parents who support this type of nonsense are ridiculous caricatures of the decent people they pretend to be.

I have done nothing to be ashamed of - and I have done much that I am proud of, in this school and especially with this class. If my freedom to criticize things I see are wrong at our school must be sacrificed in order for me to accepted by certain parents, believe me, I can do without the acceptance of such people. To the parent that came to me in honest love, know that I love you. For those who haven't figured it out yet - and want to shuffle me out the door before I can speak, please know that my voice WILL be heard. To those who have pleaded with me to change my ways I say - you first.

Pete Karaiskos

Working with Highland Hall - Pete's Letters to the Evaluation Committee

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

Working with Highland Hall - Letter from a parent #3

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

Working with Highland Hall - Letter from a parent #2

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

Working with Highland Hall - Letter from a parent #1

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

Working with Highland Hall after the Wilkins Incident

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

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Trying to work with Highland Hall

Below is an email exchange with Hasib Saiiefendic, board member then and currently board president at Highland Hall. These exchanges transpired in August of 2001, and came on the heels of Highland Hall lying about a signed "contract" with teacher Wendy Wilkins. By this time, the school governance had broken down and the board of directors was infiltrating the college of teachers. Here's the exchange which demonstrates how Highland Hall brushed off serious concerns from parents - even after harming their children. (Mr. Saliefendic's comments are indented).

August, 2001

Hello Hasib,

Thank you for responding.

The makeup of the Board and College has been pretty much as it is now since I have been involved, and as far as I know, the Parent Handbook is not the "charter" or any type of legal document which governs the composition and/or operation of the Board or the College of Teachers (but I'll need to look into that to be sure). I have always understood the Parent Handbook to be a parent directory and "quick reference" to the operations of the school, as I am sure most have.

Yes, I'm not sure either. You may want to read (and I'll also have to re-read) a book called "Economic Explorations" which describes the structure and charters of many contemporary Waldorf Schools throughout the US and around the world. It specifically describes the function of the College of Teachers and Board of Directors - and a similar body referred to as the Board of Trustees. It is quite clearly stated, as I recall (and I will acknowledge that it's been ten years since I've read it) that the makeup of the College of Teachers in each of these schools is intended to be exactly as our parent handbook states - ONLY teachers who are well established in the school, and almost always a significant Anthroposophical background is stated as a requirement. This is the very element that distinguishes a Waldorf school from any other school and I will get to this point a little later. There is no doubt in each of these examples that the College of Teachers is intended to be the body that runs the school. THAT is precisely what is wrong with Highland Hall and why all these horrible mistakes are being made!

It appears that as the College and Board evolved, noone noticed (except Pete! :-) ) that the descriptions in the Parent Handbook had become a bit outdated.

Yes, I've read Animal Farm, I know how ideas can evolve.

I appreciate you bringing it to my attention, and I'll make sure that they get updated.

Hasib, please forgive me if I remark that this is exactly the type of smug response I (and perhaps others) have come to expect from Highland Hall. You must not be paying attention if you think you can brush me off like this. I'm pointing out a serious issue here - the contamination of the two governing bodies of our school. If you don't understand the issue well enough to take it seriously, please direct my message to someone who does. And, for your information, I am not anywhere near being alone about this concern. I have been asked privately by staff and faculty members at Highland Hall to PLEASE address this issue. I'm addressing it and I will continue to address it regardless of whether Highland Hall changes the parent handbook - as if that weren't a ridiculous solution. You insult me, the parent body, the faculty and administrators with this arrogance. It occurs to me that this type of arrogance may be what happened with the "signed contract" too. When Highland Hall makes a mistake, does it just invent documentation to cover themselves?

It is my understanding that several teachers who have left Highland Hall have cited this very issue as their reason for leaving. This isn't Pete trying to nit-pick the parent handbook. I can assure you I've got better things to do with my time than to waste it trying to correct typos. This issue is, in fact, at the very core of the problems Highland Hall has been experiencing - whether or not you, personally, wish to take the effort to understand or acknowledge it.

In my experience as a Board member, I feel that the school has been better served by the Board and College working so closely. Far from it being a mistake, it has been tremendously helpful to have the benefit of their insight and participation in discussions as well as decisions.

Absolutely, the College and Board should be working closely together. This cooperation is provided for in the statement from the handbook (I won't call it the Charter for now) "The College of Teachers also has ONE NON-VOTING ADVISIORY SEAT on the Board." Hasib, you are on the Board, so I shouldn't have to be the one to explain this to you - but I will do it anyway since, apparently, nobody at Highland Hall remembers how a real Waldorf School is supposed to work. So, for your information (you may want to write this down) here is why the College seat on the Board is a non-voting advisory seat - and why there should be NO Board members on the College.

The College has no reason to vote on the Board - they are supposed to be running the school. They DIRECT the Board to do what they, the College, needs to have done. One of the Board's primary purposes is to try to achieve the goals of the College of Teachers in a real-world way. Here, once again, is the statement that confirms this (I've made extra copies in case work has already begun to obliterate it from the records):

"The College of Teachers is the main pedagogical and administrative body of the school. Members are teachers of long standing who intend to carry the present and future well-being of the school as a primary responsibility. Meetings are every Thursday and decisions are made on the basis of consensus. The group makes decisions on hiring, staff development, the curriculum, student affairs, and overall school policy. Day to day operations are delegated to specific committees composed of faculty, staff, Board, and/or parent volunteers."

Hasib, please pay attention: The College and Board have two distinct and totally different functions. The College is creating the INTENTIONS, the Board is producing the ACTIONS. The Board is unqualified to create the INTENTIONS, and the College is unqualified to produce the ACTIONS. That's why there are two bodies and THAT'S why they are supposed to be separate. Unfortunately, when Board members are on the College, it hinders the process of creating intentions because the intentions are filtered through the reality of having to produce the actions. That is why a teacher who is a "team player" is suddenly more desirable than a teacher who might prove to be problematic among administrative circles. The College of Teachers have a special, spiritual function to "carry the present and future well-being of the school as a primary responsibility" - and it is a huge responsibility. I'm sure they all take this responsibility seriously. It is absolutely essential for a properly functioning Waldorf School to work in this way or some way similar to this.
Moving on to the Board - Here, once again, is what I've saved out of the fire:

"The Board of Directors is the legal entity of the school. All financial and legal issues are the ultimate responsibility of the Board. The Board is comprised of parents, teachers, alumni and friends of the school. Each year the president of the Parent Association is an ad-hoc voting member of the Board. The College of Teachers also has ONE NON-VOTING ADVISIORY SEAT on the Board."

Anyone who's ever met a Waldorf teacher knows how (if I might make a generalization here) unprepared they are to make decisions about financial and legal issues. Indeed, if the separation of these two bodies was in place during the events that happened recently, the witnesses to the events may have gone immediately to the Board - as there were obviously legal issues. The fact that the distinction between the Board and College has been obliterated (I describe this as the Tashlan effect), may have caused the conditions under which the Board (who would probably have been best equipped to deal with what happened) didn't learn about the events until way too late in the process. Again, the College and the Board have separate and distinct functions. These bodies are supposed to be separate. In non-dysfunctional Waldorf Schools, they ARE separate.

If you really want to re-write the handbook - you might look closely at this section:

"When vacancies appear on the Board, members nominate candidates. These potential members are discussed and those whom the Board would like to have join them are then invited to attend three meetings. The candidate can then decide if he/she would like to become a member."

Maybe there should be someone besides the Board choosing the makeup of the Board. How in the world could that be a healthy policy?

While I agree that the Board and College have a lot of serious work ahead, I do not see how arbitrarily changing the Board and College makeup to match the description in the Parent Handbook would lead to the healing and positive improvements we all want.

Yes, I can see that there are a few things you don't see (no offense meant). I don't fault you for not seeing the problem at first glance. But now that I have described it in detail, PLEASE, Hasib, try to see it - and ask around. Of course there will be some people who won't like to give up their seats in both places. It's like asking politicians to impose voluntary term limits. But Highland Hall makes the claim that it is a Waldorf school. That description carries a responsibility to work in a certain way. It takes more than beeswax and fancy crayons to make it what it REALLY is supposed to be. Don't take my word for it - ask some of the teachers of long standing what they think - they are far wiser than I am. Let them read this letter and let them tell you that what I have described is not the way it's supposed to be.

In my opinion, a more responsible approach would include honest inquiry into what is working for us and what is not, then use that as a basis for considering what specific changes are appropriate. I already see this process in motion with regard to yard safety, as well as other areas.

OK, and of whom would I make this inquiry? The people already in the system? I don't think what we have now is working... do you? Does anybody? It is painfully obvious that it ISN'T working and hasn't been for several years. Is it responsible to pretend it's working when it obviously isn't? And let's get real, Hasib... Yard safety? There is WAY more wrong with Highland Hall than yard safety. Why don't you poll all the parents and ask them if they think the issue we have all been so upset about is yard safety? Again, you don't seem to be paying attention. This crisis we're going through has absolutely NOTHING to do with yard safety and EVERYTHING to do with how the situation was handled after the incidents occurred. I think a more responsible approach would be to look at what is actually wrong, make some hard decisions, and fix it. I am doing you a tremendous service by spending my time every night describing to you exactly what's wrong. You can continue trying to discredit me and insult me or you can pay attention and consider that perhaps I really know something about what I am talking about.

I'll let you know what I find out about the "charter" question.

I don't think it really matters - if you can change the handbook, you can change the charter too. If you don't see the truth in what's written in the handbook, there's no need for a charter either. We seem to have developed a dynamic system of government that doesn't need to follow any rules. That's why we are in chaos.

Pete Karaiskos

When the new Parent Handbook was released, I had a look - Subtle changes alright... just like Animal Farm:

Hello Friends,

As plans for our inter-school communications network are apparently moving slowly, I would like to invite everyone who isn't already on this email list to join. If you know of anyone who might be interested in discussing political or other important issues of Highland Hall, please have them email me so that I can add them to this list. I especially invite Board members, College members, administrators, staff members and faculty members to join the many parents and friends of Highland Hall who are, through their courage and by their participation, becoming involved in the often difficult work of ensuring the best possible education for their children and the children who will follow them. If you would like to address the people on this mailing as a group, use the "Reply All" button on your email software or just reply to my emails and indicate that your response should be made public - so that I can forward it to the others who have expressed an interest in this subject matter. If you would like to be removed from this list, please contact me and I will remove your email address.

I've just received the new "Community Directory". Naturally, since I recently had discussions with Hasib about the school organizations, and was advised that the wording would be "updated", I immediately looked up the new wording that describes the College of Teachers (page 24 in the directory). Today, I would like to address this issue and the impact that the new wording has. Fortunately, I have preserved the old wording so that we might make a comparison and discuss the implications of this apparently "minor" wording change.



The College of Teachers is the main pedagogical and administrative body of the school. Members are teachers of long standing who intend to carry the present and future well-being of the school as a primary responsibility. Meetings are every Thursday and decisions are made on the basis of consensus. The group makes decisions on hiring, staff development, the curriculum, student affairs, and overall school policy. Day to day operations are delegated to specific committees composed of faculty, staff, Board, and/or parent volunteers."


"THE COLLEGE (Note - the words "of Teachers" has been omitted in the heading)

The College of Teachers is the main pedagogical and administrative body of the school. Members are colleagues of long standing who intend to carry the present and future well-being of the school as a primary responsibility. Meetings are every Thursday and decisions are made on the basis of consensus. The group makes decisions on hiring, staff development, the curriculum, student affairs, and overall school policy. Day to day operations are delegated to specific committees composed of faculty, staff, Board, and/or parent volunteers."

Amazingly, the wording is almost the same the only differences being that THE COLLEGE OF TEACHERS is now referred to as THE COLLEGE, and the word "teacher" has been replaced with "colleague". While the Animal Farm analogy instantly comes to my mind, let's all take a moment to consider if these changes are really significant and important to us and to our children. After all, what are the responsibilities of the "College" and how do they affect us and our children? We need look no further than the above statement: " The group makes decisions on hiring, staff development, the curriculum, student affairs, and overall school policy."

So, let's take these one at a time. Why is it important, after all, that only teachers be involved in hiring decisions? If we trust and support the premise that the teachers know what is best for our children, then they MUST have ultimate control over hiring decisions, whether it be teachers, staff or administrative personnel. I fully believe they should be ADVISED by others regarding the filling of non-teaching positions but that the voting privilege on the hiring decisions, especially the hiring of teachers, must ultimately be based on what the College of Teachers (not the Colleagues of Teachers) deems is best for our children.

I'm not sure what making decisions on "staff development" entails. If this refers to the development and training of teaching staff, then do we want non-teacher involvement here? How about other staff - after school care staff, for example. The people involved in this are with some of our children many hours a day. Do we want them to deal with our children in accordance with a method that has been discussed with them by our teachers? Of course. Should it be the burden of the College of Teachers to monitor this activity? Of course not - that's why we have the "day to day operations delegated to specific committees".

Let's move on to the bigger responsibility of the "College" - curriculum. Do we want non-teachers involved in decisions regarding curriculum? I have to be quite bold here and say that I DO NOT WANT, NOR WILL I ACCEPT ANY non-Waldorf-trained "colleague" making even the slightest decision or having the slightest influence over curriculum. The thought that this could happen (or may be happening right now) leaves a horrible taste in my mouth - and I am absolutely against the politically corrected or modernized revisions of traditional Waldorf curriculum that I suspect non-teachers might want to inject into the curriculum. Frankly, I don't trust non-teachers to make these decisions. Waldorf teachers undergo intensive training that is very specific and there is no way to overemphasize the importance of the curriculum in a Waldorf school. If decisions on curriculum need to be made - Waldorf Teachers of LONG STANDING should make them. Colleagues of Teachers don't have this training and should never be placed in a position where they could vote against the better understanding of the trained Waldorf teachers.

Decisions about student affairs should, once again, be made by a College of TEACHERS not COLLEAGUES of Teachers. Teachers are most vested in and are specifically trained to have the best understanding of student affairs. Again, no "colleague" needs to or should have a voting influence in making these decisions.

"Overall school policy" - What a tremendous responsibility - making decisions about the overall school policy. There is, and always will be, a conflict here. The battle lines are clearly drawn. There are the teachers - whose primary interest is the well-being and education of the students. Then, there are the non-teachers (OK, we could call them "colleagues") whose primary interest is the well-being of the school. These can be very different points of view. Is one more noble than the other? No. They are both very valid political views - and both necessary - so that the school may run properly and the students may get the environment and education they deserve. The old community directory had the balance between these two political views correct. The College of Teachers, of course, represents the interests of the individual students. Others, perhaps the Board of Directors, have the well being of the school and the overall student population as their primary focus. This is exactly how it should be. And yet, setting the overall school policy was clearly granted to the College of Teachers. Unfortunately, when we allow the infiltration of the College of Teachers by "Colleagues", we upset that balance. When the balance is upset, the individual students tend to suffer.

Here's an example of how this works: In the past, it has been at the discretion of the teacher to decide how many students the teacher feels comfortable having in their class. Teachers support this understanding in that a teacher who is taking more children than they feel comfortable with is likely to be ineffective and the individual child's education is bound to suffer, or worse yet, the teacher may be overwhelmed, able to handle the pressure and either do an inadequate job or even leave the school. However, people who put the interest of the school first tend not to support this view and have been known to try to convince teachers to take more students than they feel comfortable taking. Their reasoning is that the classroom costs the same to operate whether full or half full and therefore needs to be full. From an economic viewpoint, they are absolutely correct. After all, higher enrollment means more funds for more activities and a stronger school which, overall, benefits all students.

Both are valid viewpoints - one benefits the individual student, one benefits the school. Weakening either viewpoint disturbs the balance. We must be clear here, that by simply changing a couple of words, we have weakened the College of Teachers and have disturbed this balance (which, by the way, began several years ago). The past few years of problems attest to the validity of my assessment of this issue.

It is clear to me that the wording has changed to accommodate the current makeup of the College of Teachers. This is a fresh black eye for Highland Hall. I implore everyone to please consider this issue carefully and to insist that the make-up of the College of Teachers be restored to "teachers of long standing who intend to carry the present and future well-being of the school as a primary responsibility." These are the only persons who should have voting privileges on the College of Teachers. They are the ones we have placed our trust in and have trusted with the well being of our children. There are places for people who haven't attained the level of teacher of long standing but they clearly don't belong in the College of Teachers regardless of what the new Community Directory has been revised to declare. They may and should do the valuable work of "Day to day operations are delegated to specific committees composed of faculty, staff, Board, and/or parent volunteers."

As a final note, I'd like to point out that I, too, could be considered a "colleague of long standing" at Highland Hall. Under the current qualifications, even I would qualify to become a member of the Colleagues of Teachers - especially as (unlike teacher) there are no qualifications to be a colleague. If the thought of this makes you uncomfortable (as I would hope it might), consider that perhaps the qualifications have become too relaxed and that the once high standards for this, the most important governing body of the school, must be restored. Additionally, there is no mention of what percentage of "colleagues" can be represented in "the College". Could there be a College of Teachers with more "colleagues" than teachers? Perhapse without ANY teachers? According to the above definition, there could. I find this particularly disturbing. Could we see next year's wording change make it the College of Colleagues? Please, don't take my word for any of this. Talk with teachers around the school and get their viewpoint - especially the teachers that are on the College of Teachers. Don't let the changing of a word turn into the changing of the guard. Let's all support the highest ideals of Waldorf education by speaking openly and freely whenever we feel they are being tarnished.

Blessings and peace,

Pete Karaiskos

Highland Hall Board Members Clueless?

Dear Parent Community of Highland Hall,

It is with deep regret that I must inform you that Highland Hall has been teaching your children some of the racist ideas which are part of Anthroposophy. I discovered this a few years ago and had some unproductive discussions with the school. Recently, several things have happened to me personally that allowed me to engage in further discussions with Highland Hall about this issue, and subsequent unproductive discussions led to this email and the whistle-blowing campaign it launches.

1) My son turned 18. His choice of schools is his own now.

2) For over a decade Highland Hall representatives have been intentionally undermining me with my kids, with the courts and with the community. When I criticized their cult-like activities in front of the community, they did everything they could to silence me - including pressuring my kids with expulsion. As a reasonable person having to deal with unreasonable people, I waited until my son was safely an adult before taking action against them for their continued dishonest and sometimes criminal activities toward my children.

3) Part of my investigation of Highland Hall has included the review of past and current report cards and what I found was disturbing. Very strange ideas are STILL being taught to our children - Ideas I know to be rooted in Anthroposophy. I will provide some examples right off the report card descriptions in another email.

4) Some of the ideas that have been taught to our children are the racist ideas that are the foundation of Anthroposophy. Among them, that people with white skin are more evolved than people with black skin. This was taught directly to our children under the class description "physiology".

5) I tried to have a discussion about all this with Highland Hall recently. I was referred to the Board of Trustees President, Hasib Saliefendic - who referred me to Highland Hall's attorney. I explained that I am not suing Highland Hall. This didn't seem to matter to Mr. Saliefendic - he wanted nothing to do with answering my questions. Nonetheless, I was persistent in increasing levels until I could get some answers. After all, Highland Hall harmed my children and conspired to keep this information from me, I felt I was entitled to talk to their representative - not shuffled off to their attorney.

6) It was only after I began circulating a flier that discusses Highland Hall's role in promoting racism in the community, that Mr. Saliefendic agreed to discuss my grievances with me. He and board member Andy Sapin agreed to meet with me at a public location. I brought a neutral friend who is a parent at a different private school to witness. A discussion ensued.

In the course of our discussion, Mr. Saliefendic revealed several things that I was surprised to hear. Firstly, he admitted not having knowledge of Anthroposophy. This became very apparent to me as our discussions continued. Secondly, he claimed no knowledge of what is actually being taught in the classroom. Despite these two statements, he could express with great confidence that Steiner's ideas were not racist, and that they are not being taught in the classroom. This concerned me as it did my friend Emmy who witnessed this.

7) With Mr. Saliefendic's and Mr. Sapin's announcement that they are both very satisfied customer's of Highland Hall, and with their encouragement, Emmy was instructed to independently research Waldorf on the web to see what she could find out. Emmy quite naturally excluded Waldorf-owned sites in her search for information about Waldorf. That makes perfect sense when you are investigating a school because of a problem, but not necessarily when you are investigating Waldorf to put your child there. Knowing there's a problem with Waldorf is essential for parents.

So, Emmy found in a just a few clicks some very disturbing things about Waldorf and Steiner. She went to the effort of detailing these disturbing things for Mr. Saliefendic in an email. Suddenly, she became the enemy. Mr. Saliefendic couldn't understand why she didn't get all her information from Waldorf-supportive sites run by AWSNA and Waldorf enthusiast - Sune Nordwall - and indeed directed her to them and away from neutral sites. After I demonstrated to Mr. Saliefendic that the quote used by Mr. Nordwall on his website as evidence against Steiner's racism is refuted in the very next paragraph of the lecture it is extracted from, I again got the silent treatment from Mr. Saliefendic.

8) After a quick look at his responsive email, Emmy correctly concluded that Mr. Saliefendic is "in denial". I would agree that if these are the places where he gets his information about Waldorf - AND - if these are the places he is directing parents to for their information about Waldorf, then there is indeed good reason to believe we need discussions with our board members and the community at large about what Waldorf is REALLY teaching kids and why.

9) It is unfortunate that, as always, Highland Hall requires that I put their feet to the fire in public when simple private discussions could have made this all unnecessary. Instead of accepting that racism exists in Waldorf, as many educators (even Waldorf supporters Ida Oberman and Ray McDermott) warn, Highland Hall's Board President denies that it exists at Highland Hall without benefit of knowing what is being taught. He insists that they do not teach racist ideas, despite overwhelming evidence that at least some other Waldorf schools knowingly or unknowingly teach racism. Add to this the evidence that Highland Hall without question teaches Steiner's ideas and has at the very least taught racist principles to children in the past and this is good reason to demand accountability until Highland Hall identifies, faces and acknowledges what they are teaching our children and makes this clear to parents up-front.

10) I am forming C.A.R.E. Citizens Against Racism in Education. Highland Hall will be the focus of my attention. I do not think people who believe and hold racist ideas should be conducting a school in the first place (to me it's no different than exposing children who have no choice to second-hand smoke) but I acknowledge their right to exist for people who want their children to learn these things. The fact that Anthroposophists don't understand their ideas are racist worries me. Simply denying they are teaching racism isn't going to pass public scrutiny. Using strong-arm tactics against anyone who questions their ideas very loudly (in Highland Hall's case with me) makes it evident they are hiding things. Why don't they direct parents to neutral websites where legitimate reports about racism in Waldorf can be found?

Should this cult-like behavior exclude Highland Hall from being allowed to teach children? No... but when they teach racism and they don't tell parents what they're up to, it's criminal. C.A.R.E. wants Highland Hall to have full disclosure of Steiner's racist ideas to parents.

11) Part of Highland Hall's recent strong-arm tactics against me was to hand me a letter (at our meeting) that says I am no longer allowed to step foot on Highland Hall's property. This means that I cannot attend events my son participates in, or even attend my son's high school graduation. I don't think that's very nice. Additionally, I'm not supposed to email anyone in the community to talk about this. They have no right to ask this and I won't be complying with the email part, obviously.

12) In response to their actions, I have informed Highland Hall that I am expecting to demonstrate in front of the school on Wednesday, September 9th. I have applied for a permit to do so. If it goes through in time, I will be there with a group of citizens - if it doesn't, I'll wait until another school event for this protest.

I hope to gather the support of a few Highland Hall parents who realize they have been duped and will speak out that teaching racism (whether Highland Hall agrees it's racism or not) is wrong, but even if I don't have Highland Hall parent's support - I hope to get the support of people in the outer community who actually understand that what Highland Hall is doing is horrible. Again, whether or not this protest is successful, I expect to conduct additional protests at prominent events on Highland Hall's calendar until Highland Hall addresses the problems directly.

13) I feel Highland Hall has, with its refusal to self-examine its racist activities, encouraged me to shine a light on this issue within and without the community and with everyone who will hear me. If I can get local media involved, I will. National media would be better. The story is quickly becoming Highland Hall's strange behavior regarding this topic and their unwillingness to acknowledge that it exists, let alone address it openly - and their efforts to suppress me. This was the primary concern of educational expert, Howard Gardner of Harvard University, author of classics including The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach - when he withdrew his support of Waldorf Education. Like many parents, he was duped initially by Waldorf's apparent good intentions, but his eyes were opened later when he realized how Waldorf disguises itself.

14) I encourage all parents, teachers, administrators and the community at large to join me in discussions relating to the infusion of Steiner's teachings into the curriculum at Highland Hall. I'd like parents to know what Eurythmy really is, why it is taught in every Waldorf school in the world, in every grade, to every student... and why it is a 4 unit class in the high school. Is this something parents are curious about - or do you just accept it as some nutty dance program?

It's time for Highland Hall to come clean about what our kids have been taught all these years and why. If they won't tell you, I will. If you won't listen, the rest of the world will be interested. Nobody has an excuse for not knowing any more. The spotlight is on Highland Hall. Let's see if they intend to defend what they are teaching our children or not?

Please support me in revealing the truth about Steiner's roll in Highland Hall's curriculum - once and for all.


Why Waldorf Permits Bullying and Abuse

Every time I speak with a member of the Highland Hall community who doesn’t get it, I find myself compelled to carry on my letter-writing campaign. This time it was a Highland Hall board member who claimed we will “never agree” on the philosophy. Fair enough… but there’s still one big problem… THE PHILOSOPHY IS ABUSIVE TO CHILDREN… so simply not agreeing with Highland Hall’s philosophy is not acceptable to me – especially while they are abusing children. Those of you who know me know how close to home this particular issue strikes. Highland Hall has abused my kids for decades and that abuse continues.

There is no question that bullying and abuse have occurred regularly at Highland Hall since its inception in 1955. Back then, it was easier to cover up the occasional abuse of students by teachers (and sometimes parents) – and still cases of abuse at Highland Hall were documented throughout the years. Abuse of children is still acceptable today at Highland Hall. I have personally documented many cases of abuse and brought them to the Highland Hall Board’s attention without too much success (It was because of the combined voices of a few brave parents that a couple of the worst teachers finally left voluntarily). But the question remains, why does Highland Hall turn a blind eye to the bullying and abuse of children by its teachers – both on and off campus?

It may not come as a surprise to many who have been reading my previous letters about racism at Highland Hall, that it’s the same hidden philosophy behind Highland Hall and Waldorf – Anthroposophy, the philosophy that permits racism - which also permits Waldorf teachers to stand by while children bully children, and while teachers abuse children (and parents).

Where exactly does Anthroposophy say abuse of children is permitted? Well, first, it helps if one believes some children aren’t really “children” but “demons”.

"Demons are born through man's immoral conduct. Let us look at the difference between the demons that arise through immoral behaviour and the spiritual entities - spiritual in so far as they only achieve a watery existence on Earth - the spiritual forms that are created by moral actions." ...

"The demons created out of immoral actions also have an astral body, an ether body and a physical body, at the watery level of course, but they do not have the basis for developing an ego. They are born headless, as it were. They do not take up the basis for regular evolution to Jupiter existence but reject it. By doing so they condemn themselves to a fate of dropping out of evolution and adding to the hordes of luciferic beings, falling into their power. Unable to progress in a regular way they become parasites. This is what happens to all the spirits who reject normal evolution; they have to attach themselves to others in order to progress. Spirits who arise through immoral actions have a particular tendency to be parasites in human evolution on Earth under Lucifer's leadership, and to seize hold of the evolution of human beings before these make their physical entry into the world. They attack human beings during the embryonic stage and share their existence between conception and birth. Some of these spirits, if they are strong enough, can continue to accompany the human being after birth, creating the phenomena seen in children who are possessed.

"The criminal demons attached as parasite to unborn children cause deterioration in the succession of the generations; this eats into human beings, making them less good than they would be if these demons did not exist. There are various reasons for the decline of families, tribes, people and nations, but one of them is the existence of these criminal demon parasites during the period mentioned.

"These things play an important part in Earth evolution as a whole, and we are here touching on deep secrets of human existence. People often acquire certain prejudices and points of view even before they are born because of this. They are then tormented by doubts and uncertainties in life, and all kinds of other things, because of these demonic parasites.

"These spirits cannot do very much once human beings develop their ego, but they prey on them all the more before they are born or in their earliest years." (from "Future Jupiter Existence" (Dornach, 3 January 1915), reprinted in Angels: Selected Lectures by Rudolf Steiner; London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996 reprinted 1998). (pp 167-168))

And directly from the Waldorf Teacher Training reading list:

Dr. Steiner: “That little girl L.. in the first grade must have something very wrong inside. There is not much we can do. Such cases are increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings in relation to their highest I [the highest element of one’s spiritual being]; instead, they are filled with beings that do not belong to the human class. Quite a number of people have been born since the [1890s] without an I, that is, they are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon. There are quite a large number of older people going around who are actually not human beings, but only natural; they are human beings only in regard to their form. We cannot, however, create a school for demons.”

A teacher: “How is that possible?”

Dr. Steiner: “Cosmic error is certainly not impossible. The relationships of individuals coming into earthly existence have long been determined. There are also generations in which individuals have no desire to come into earthly existence and be connected with physicality, or immediately leave at the very beginning. In such cases, other beings that are not quite suited step in.... They are also quite different from human beings in regard to everything spiritual. They can, for example, never remember such things as sentences; they have a memory only for words, not for sentences....

“I do not like to talk about such things since we have often been attacked even without them. Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings. Nevertheless, these are facts. Our culture would not be in such a decline if people felt more strongly that a number of people are going around who, because they are completely ruthless, have become something that is not human, but instead are demons in human form.

“Nevertheless, we do not want to shout that to the world. Our opposition is already large enough. Such things are really shocking to people. I caused enough shock when I needed to say that a very famous university professor, after a very short time between death and rebirth, was reincarnated as a black scientist. We do not want to shout such things out into the world.” (Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, Anthroposophical Press, 1998, pp. 649-650.)

Note that in the last two paragraphs, Steiner makes it clear to Waldorf teachers that this “demon” stuff is to be kept secret from “the world”. Nonetheless, demons can appear in the form of children, according to Steiner.

So if children may be demons, who decides if they are demons? Well, that would have to be the best trained people for this – Waldorf teachers. Do some Waldorf teachers really think children’s bodies can be inhabited by demons? YES, they REALLY DO! By some unfortunate stroke of bad luck, Waldorf teacher (and now teacher trainer at Highland Hall) Christine Leonard announced my own daughter was demonically possessed when she was 10 years old. To exercise these demons, apparently exercise (running laps) was a good thing. So was cleaning toilets, having her belongings searched, labeled as a liar (for revealing what she saw), endless verbal abuse and being singled out as a… well… a demon – to the whole class. My daughter started on a path of self-destruction from that time on. Mrs. Leonard’s diagnosis has taken its toll on my daughter over the years – despite the therapy she has required. Some Waldorf teachers may believe Mrs. Leonard was right about her diagnosis of my daughter. They definitely believe Steiner when he says demons exist in children. If you ask me… there are demons at work at Waldorf – but they are not in our children. Not YET…

But what does it say about the role models we are providing for our kids when they are known to be dishonest? We know many teachers at Highland Hall have lied to the parents. We know this because under pressure, they have had to admit it. Nonetheless, we allow them to be our children’s role models. Dishonest people don’t make very good role models… in fact DISHONEST PEOPLE MAKE LOUSY ROLE MODELS.

And why are Waldorf teachers dishonest? Because Steiner TOLD THEM they should be. Again, from the paragraph above:

“I do not like to talk about such things since we have often been attacked even without them. Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings. Nevertheless, these are facts. Our culture would not be in such a decline if people felt more strongly that a number of people are going around who, because they are completely ruthless, have become something that is not human, but instead are demons in human form.”

Steiner instructed Waldorf teachers to keep their knowledge from the outside world. Does that mean parents too? On page 10 of Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner:

“However, there is something else that I would ask you to be aware of. That is, that we, as the faculty—what others do with the children is a separate thing—do not attempt to bring out into the public things that really concern only our school. I have been back only a few hours, and I have heard so much gossip about who got a slap and so forth. All of that gossip is going beyond all bounds, and I really found it very disturbing. We do not really need to concern ourselves when things seep out the cracks. We certainly have thick enough skins for that. But on the other hand, we clearly do not need to help it along. We should be quiet about how we handle things in the school, that is, we should maintain a kind of school confidentiality. We should not speak to people outside the school, except for the parents who come to us with questions, and in that case, only about their children, so that gossip has no opportunity to arise.”

So secrecy is the name of the game with Waldorf. Parents aren’t given a truthful story when abuse happens… not because some teacher made bad choices during a crisis, but because that’s what Waldorf teachers are TRAINED to do. And THAT is why when they are finally fired for their bad behavior, they simply transfer to another school. They haven’t done anything wrong in Waldorf/Steiner’s view. Lying to parents and covering up bad behavior is part of Waldorf. If you have any doubts, read FACULTY MEETINGS with RUDOLF STEINER – starting at page 377. Read how, when an incident involving Waldorf students happened, Steiner himself worked with teachers to hide the truth from the public.

This is why Waldorf teachers are deceptive. They are TAUGHT to be deceptive. It’s part of Waldorf education to be deceptive… to lie to parents… even about their own children. Why? Because according to Steiner, the Waldorf teacher is more important to the spiritual development of the child than the parents are.