If Waldorf Education is to have any benefit for children, that benefit has to come into their hearts on the wings of truth and honesty. Highland Hall has yet to learn its lesson about truth and honesty which regrettably is regularly sacrificed at the expense of our children. Recent events have reminded me of the wonderful Narnia story, in which Aslan's name has been taken by the impostor, Tash - and soon it becomes Tashlan. Waldorf Education in its true form has some wonderful ideas but Waldorf Education's ideas have been hijacked by impostors at Highland Hall, its benefits greatly diminished by those who would obfuscate the truth in the name of advancing Waldorf Education. Our children are learning the lesson that truth is subjective. They all witnessed the wrongdoing by Mrs. Leonard first hand. If Waldorf Education's ideals are ever to be advanced, perhaps we at Highland Hall should start by making the rule that "People who would do harm to children should not be teachers."
The Evaluation Committee's letter to the Fifth Grade Parents dated March 4, 2004 is replete with omissions that reflect the dishonest process by which Mrs. Leonard has been absolved of any guilt in the recent events surrounding her classroom. I would say "pardoned" of any guilt but judging by the letter, no guilt has been attributed to her. It's as if the stories read themselves and the pills dispensed themselves. Highland Hall's dishonesty in the production of this letter reflects Highland Hall's dishonesty in the handling of this matter. I respectfully submit my:
Suggested revisions to the Evaluation Committee's letter
Dear Evaluation Committee,
In reading your recent letter dated march 24, 2004, I am concerned that I haven't received a complete copy as many sentences seem unfinished and incomplete. Please advise me as to whether you intend to complete this letter and resend it. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
"Recently some concerns were brought to our attention in regards to Mrs. Leonard's fifth grade. One concern involved stories from the Egyptian block about the gods Osiris and Geb."
The second sentence seems incomplete as simply reading Egyptian stories shouldn't bring concern to anyone. Perhaps it should have said "One concern was that Mrs. Leonard during the Egyptian block read to the class inappropriate stories about the gods Osiris and Geb that included incest and rape and issued a homework assignment that implied that Mrs. Leonard had found Orisis' severed penis." Because of the omissions, one who is filling in the blanks might have read "Recently some concerns were brought to our attention in regards to Mrs. Leonard's fifth grade. We're not going to mention that they described incest and rape because if you don't already know about it, we're not about to tell you. In fact, we're going to treat the entire matter as Mrs. Leonard treated it, by pretending it didn't happen."
"Another concern involved an over-the-counter supplement that was to be taken by one student for a limited time during the 2002-2003 school year but that another student said they had been given."
In this sentence, it appears that only one child was involved and the sentence doesn't identify who had administered the supplement. Clearly this was an oversight and I imagine this sentence was intended to read "Another concern involved an over-the-counter supplement that was to be taken by one student for a limited time during the 2002-2003 school year but that TWO other students said they had been given by Mrs. Leonard, one of whom took the supplement." Because of the omissions, one who is filling in the blanks might think that you don't believe any wrongdoing occurred with the second child because the child was brave enough to not take the pill that was being given him by Mrs. Leonard and in fact threw it at her. One might also conclude that the Evaluation Committee has made the decision that the issue about the second child is a non-issue to the rest of the parents who expect you to deal with this matter in clarity.
"We have thoroughly reviewed these matters with information from interviews with Mrs. Leonard, thirteen families in the class, four students (with their parents' permission), and two other adults who were periodically in the class during that 2002-2003 school year. We have been unable to identify the brand name or ingredients of the supplement as the parent who supplied it does not remember it specifically from her purchase over a year ago at a local Healthy Discount store."
I am baffled by this paragraph. While I'm sure the identification of the product and its place of purchase might have been important to someone interested in purchasing it for their own child, I can't see why a year later, the name of the product is more important than the fact that it was distributed to a child that wasn't meant to receive it. Certainly you didn't drag our children into an interview to ascertain the name of the product? Perhaps, the Evaluation Committee needs to have a drug administered to itself that would cause it to tell the truth. Then the above paragraph might sound like "We have thoroughly reviewed these matters with information from interviews with Mrs. Leonard, thirteen families in the class, four students (with their parents' permission), and two other adults who were periodically in the class during that 2002-2003 school year. Rather than tell you the results of these interviews or disclose any information that would be helpful to you, we are going to pretend that identifying the ingredients of the supplement and where it was purchased was the most important part of the investigation. Our investigation consisted primarily of chastising your children under the pretense of questioning them. If we were inclined to tell the truth, we would have to admit that Mrs. Leonard, despite her denial and despite our best efforts to sway testimony, was implicated as having dispensed a drug we cannot identify to children it was not intended for. This was apparently done without knowledge of the children's medical history, whether the children were under any other medication at the time or whether the drug might be in conflict with such medication or be otherwise harmful to the children she dispensed it to. We are inclined to believe Mrs. Leonard over the testimony of the children who withnessed and participated in this incident. Our lawyer informs us that while this is a crime in public schools, it is not a crime in private schools."
"We believe the incidents related to these concerns were atypical and that they do not represent the overall high quality of Mrs. Leonard's teaching."
While I'm sure it is evident how you came to this conclusion, this sentence doesn't give enough credit to your investigation and the process by which you arrived at your conclusion. Perhaps it should be embellished with "We believe the incidents related to these concerns were atypical and that they do not represent the overall high quality of Mrs. Leonard's teaching. While some parents have brought to our attention the matters of inappropriate sexual conversations in front of the children and revealing swimming attire worn by Mrs. Leonard at the 4th grade camping trip, the searches of the boy's backpacks and confiscation of personal property last year and the corporal punishment of running laps, the bleeding quilt story that gave some children nightmares, the sexist anti-male comments, the alienating of the fathers in the class and separate incidents of inappropriate comments to individual children that those children found disturbing, we feel that all these incidents are also atypical. We have made no connection between the sexist anti-male comments, the alienating of the fathers, the searches of the boy's backpacks, the two stories about a boy raping his mother and the severed penis, and the fact that calming pills were given to the boys in the classroom. In fact we have no evidence suggesting that Mrs. Leonard is displaying sociopathic anti-male behavior. What we're really trying to focus on here is the overall high quality of Mrs. Leonard's teaching - and if disgruntled parents would only stop listening to the complaints of their children and concentrate on the high quality of Mrs. Leonard's teaching, we can get on with what's important - which isn't the well-being of the children but the high quality of Mrs. Leonard's teaching."
Certainly, one would have had to have been in a coma over the past two years to believe that these incidents are atypical. In your letter alone you are excusing 1) the reading of the incest/rape story, 2) the homework assignment about Osiris' severed penis, 3) the distribution of pills to two separate children over a period of time and 4) the conflicting stories by Mrs. Leonard to explain her actions. This is not "atypical", it is a harmful pattern of poor judgment followed up by subterfuge and deceit if there ever was one. If this were a public school, there would be no question about whether Mrs. Leonard would be allowed to continue teaching. Our children don't deserve the consideration that public school children deserve? Why not just be honest and explain that the safety and well-being of the children has been sacrified in this issue.
"We have taken steps to avoid these situations in the future. We have had conversations with Mrs. Leonard to review the school's expectations, and she is in full agreement with the school's policies and principles involved. We are also refining and will be publishing our policy on medicine/vitamin distribution."
As you are updating your letter, perhaps the above sentence could be altered a bit. Let's try to make it more truthful shall we. How about "Just incase you have a memory of the incidents that have occurred in the past two years or aren't satisfied that rape, incest and drug dispensing should be treated as lightly as we have chosen to treat them, and especially for those of you who are demanding that we actually do something, we have taken steps to avoid these situations in the future. We have had conversations with Mrs. Leonard to coordinate the school's explanations, and she is in full agreement with the school's disregard for the policies and principles involved. We are also refining and will be publishing our policy on medicine/vitamin distribution. We may even revise the employee handbook. To compensate her for all the trouble you parents have put her through we have extended her contract for two more years."
A man used the same axe for fifty years. Over that period of time he replaced three heads and four handles but to him it was still the same axe. After the Wendy Wilkins incidents, a new administration was put in place and committees were formed - the implication being that we wouldn't continue to have these types of problems. Personally, I am sickened that we have to go through this all again. For two years, complaints about Mrs. Leonard have fallen on fresh deaf ears. Half the class has left the school. You, the Evaluation Committee, are either extremely naive and are only now learning all the facts despite your investigation, or you are complicit in whitewashing harmful actions against the children at this school. There is a clear and unmistakable pattern going back two years of Mrs. Leonard's poor judgment and controlling behavior that has been harmful to our children, harmful to our community and ultimately undermines the principles of Waldorf education. You choose to call her recent actions "atypical". I choose to call your assessment shameful. I hold my head up with pride knowing that people like you don't represent people like me.
I look forward to your revised letter in which you address these matters truthfully. I join other parents in prayer that you will reverse your decision to extend Mrs. Leonard's contract and terminate her immediately. Anything less makes a mockery of the educational system you pretend to advance and confirms your alliance with those who would do harm to our children.
For the record, I don't agree with everything Rudolf Steiner has said. On this issue, however, Rudolf Steiner and I are in complete agreement.
"The teacher must be one who is true in the depths of his being. He must never compromise with untruth, for if he did so we should see how through many channels untruth would find its way into our teaching, especially in the way we present our subjects. Our teaching will only bear the stamp of truth if we are intently striving after truth in ourselves." - Rudolf Steiner