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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Highland Hall - Breaking Mandated Reporting Laws

August 7, 2001

I think it is important to continue to examine what has happened recently at Highland Hall - until we are all satisfied that we have gotten to the truth. Many of us, I'm sure, would like to know if any laws were broken. I will admit that I'm no expert on the law, but I have obtained a copy of the Child Abuse and Reporting Act - California Penal Code Section 11164 - 11174.3 - and as I stated in another letter, I CAN read. I am going to quote from this document but, as we all know, anything can be taken out of context and made to sound different than it was intended. I will, therefore, be happy to provide anyone who would like it, a copy of the complete document. It can also be found on the internet - I just did a search on the words "California" and "Law". Please let me know if you would like a copy.

***PLEASE NOTE: While I have tried to remove the most graphic descriptions contained in the law, there may be some wording contained in the law that some might find disturbing. Please forgive me if this information is an intrusion and disregard this message.

Here's part of what the law defines as "child molestation":

11165.1. As used in this article, "sexual abuse" means sexual
assault or sexual exploitation as defined by the following:
(4) The intentional touching of the genitals or intimate parts
(including the breasts, genital area, groin, inner thighs, and
buttocks) or the clothing covering them, of a child, or of the
perpetrator by a child, for purposes of sexual arousal or

I think it has already been established that this took place, but even if this activity didn't take place, there was certainly enough reasonable suspicion about what had been going on with Jeffrey since November to require the reporting of ANY activities involving him and young children on the school grounds.

As it applies to our situation, here is who the law defines as a mandated reporter:

11165.7. (a) As used in this article, "mandated reporter" is
defined as any of the following:
(1) A teacher.
(2) An instructional aide.
(3) A teacher's aide or teacher's assistant employed by any public
or private school.
(4) A classified employee of any public school.
(5) An administrative officer or supervisor of child welfare and
attendance, or a certificated pupil personnel employee of any public
or private school.
(6) An administrator of a public or private day camp.
(7) An administrator or employee of a public or private youth
center, youth recreation program, or youth organization.
(8) An administrator or employee of a public or private
organization whose duties require direct contact and supervision of
(9) Any employee of a county office of education or the California
Department of Education, whose duties bring the employee into
contact with children on a regular basis.

I've left off the police officers, fire-fighters, dog catchers, and other professionals that are included on this list but don't pertain to us. It is also important to note the following:

(e) The absence of training shall not excuse a mandated reporter
from the duties imposed by this article.

OK, so now that we know who the mandated reporters are, when are they supposed to report?

11166. (a) Except as provided in subdivision (c){THIS REFERS TO AN EXEMPTION FOR CLERGY MEMBERS - PK}, a mandated
reporter shall make a report to an agency specified in Section
11165.9 whenever the mandated reporter, in his or her professional
capacity or within the scope of his or her employment, has knowledge
of or observes a child whom the mandated reporter knows or reasonably
suspects has been the victim of child abuse or neglect. The
mandated reporter shall make a report to the agency immediately or as
soon as is practicably possible by telephone, and the mandated
reporter shall prepare and send a written report thereof within 36 hours of receiving the information concerning the incident.

It was confirmed in last week's meeting (this was the question I asked you, Hasib) that the after school care committee had not one, but repeated occurrences of these types of incidents with Jeffrey to the point that they could "no longer handle him". These persons were all mandatory reporters yet no report was filed.

Was it reasonable for them to suspect anything?

(1) For the purposes of this article, "reasonable suspicion" means
that it is objectively reasonable for a person to entertain a
suspicion, based upon facts that could cause a reasonable person in a
like position, drawing, when appropriate, on his or her training and
experience, to suspect child abuse or neglect.

Were any laws broken?

(b) Any mandated reporter who fails to report an incident of known
or reasonably suspected child abuse or neglect as required by this
section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months
confinement in a county jail or by a fine of one thousand dollars
($1,000) or by both that fine and punishment.

What if the person who should have made the report failed to make the report? Is everyone else off the hook?

(f) When two or more persons, who are required to report, jointly
have knowledge of a known or suspected instance of child abuse or
neglect, and when there is agreement among them, the telephone report
may be made by a member of the team selected by mutual agreement and
a single report may be made and signed by the selected member of the
reporting team. Any member who has knowledge that the member
designated to report has failed to do so shall thereafter make the report.
What if the report was made to a supervisor and the supervisor said not to worry about it - or to keep it quiet?

(g) (1) The reporting duties under this section are individual,
and no supervisor or administrator may impede or inhibit the
reporting duties, and no person making a report shall be subject to
any sanction for making the report. However, internal procedures to
facilitate reporting and apprise supervisors and administrators of
reports may be established provided that they are not inconsistent
with this article.

(3) Reporting the information regarding a case of possible child
abuse or neglect to an employer, supervisor, school principal, school
counselor, co-worker, or other person shall not be a substitute for
making a mandated report to an agency specified in Section 11165.9.

But what if the reporter was worried about causing trouble or even losing their job?

(2) The internal procedures shall not require any employee
required to make reports pursuant to this article to disclose his or
her identity to the employer.

We have heard the school's claim of possible liability on the part of the school for reporting Jeffrey, because he was a minor.

11172. (a) No mandated reporter who reports a known or suspected
instance of child abuse or neglect shall be civilly or criminally
liable for any report required or authorized by this article.

But what if the mandated reporters didn't know they were mandated reporters?

11166.5. (a) On and after January 1, 1985, any mandated reporter as
specified in Section 11165.7, with the exception of child visitation
monitors, prior to commencing his or her employment, and as a
prerequisite to that employment, shall sign a statement on a form
provided to him or her by his or her employer to the effect that he
or she has knowledge of the provisions of Section 11166 and will
comply with those provisions. The employer shall provide a copy of
Sections 11165.7 and 11166 to the employee.

The statement shall inform the employee that he or she is a
mandated reporter and inform the employee of his or her reporting
obligations under Section 11166.

The signed statements shall be retained by the employer or the
court, as the case may be. The cost of printing, distribution, and
filing of these statements shall be borne by the employer or the

(c) As an alternative to the procedure required by subdivision
(b), a state agency may cause the required statement to be printed on
all application forms for a license or certificate printed on or
after January 1, 1986.

So, if this is the case, and the mandated reporters didn't know they were mandated to report, then is the school guilty of not providing this information. This would be easy enough to verify as the signed and dated documents for each and every employee at Highland Hall would be on record. If they are on record, then the mandated reporters didn't do their mandated reporting. If these documents are not on file, then it would seem the school didn't fulfill their obligation under the law to provide this documentation.

I would encourage everyone to procure a copy of this law (especially faculty and administrators at Highland Hall) and read it - it's only about 25 pages but I will admit it's a difficult read. Again, I must apologize for the lengthy email. There is so much to do before the school year starts!

Warm wishes,

Pete Karaiskos

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pete Responds to his daughter's expulsion

July 1, 2004

Dear Highland Hall College of Teachers,

I am in receipt of your letter dated June 24, 2005 (I assume you meant 2004). Your indictment of me begins with the statement "The College of Highland Hall Waldorf School has decided that the school cannot re-enroll {Daughter} for the 2004-2005 school year. This decision was made not because of {Daughter}'s behavior, but because of your behavior toward the class teacher and the school as a whole. The College sees that the class needs a space to heal after the past difficult year."

First, let me make it clear that I am proud of my behavior and of my integrity. Many parents and former parents have written and called me to thank me for my part in exposing the class teacher and for taking the heat from the school. One former parent expressed that only now that the teacher is no longer at Highland Hall, her child has felt the necessary closure required for healing. But before we go any further, could I please inquire what my behavior was toward {Daughter}'s class teacher that you found offensive? I always treated her respect, conducted myself properly in my meetings with her, never raised my voice even when frustrated and angry. I even helped her carry boxes from her car while discussing my concerns with her about her inappropriate conversations with my daughter. My behavior toward her was absolutely respectful. Meanwhile, behind my back, the same class teacher specifically told my daughter to keep secrets from me, told {Daughter} that she wanted to adopt her and according to {Daughter}'s mother, conspired with her mother to have the Department of Child Services investigate me on false charges regarding my daughter and my other children. When the same teacher found out that my daughter was confiding in me, she continually gave my daughter dirty looks across the room and whispered comments to her in private that my daughter found frightening. She subjected my daughter and the entire class to several inappropriate stories, homework assignments and finally sang a horrible song to them - the common themes in each instance being forced male dominance over women and human dismemberment. Yet somehow MY behavior is in question here? {Daughter}'s teacher was exhibiting disturbing behavior and she proved this to the entire community. My behavior, my obligation was to do whatever was necessary to point this out and to keep others (the Evaluation Committee and our administrators) from covering it up before more harm came to my daughter and other children - nothing more. How can any of you suggest that, by revealing this woman's behavior, my behavior is somehow suspect.

Your letter further states "You have repeatedly sent blind emails to community members making negative statements about the former class teacher, the Evaluation Committee, and members of the administration, in direct conflict with our communication protocol."

I pointed out the truth. The truth reflected negatively on the class teacher, the Evaluation Committee and the members of the administration - this is their fault, not mine. They are responsible for what happened. With regard to blind emails, I communicated in blind emails for the reason that not everyone I emailed to has given me permission to share their email address so I could not make those addresses public. You assume too much thinking that by including the recipient's email addresses you would have had any better opportunity to do your damage control. I had to send my emails out in waves. Replying to the recipients of my original email would only have assured Highland Hall of reaching everyone on one wave of email so the fact that they were blind copied made no difference whatsoever in Highland Halls ability to respond. Emails that were issued by other parents contained email addresses but were forwarded to me and I could have forwarded them to others - the fact that they contained addresses was no indication of who eventually saw them. Indeed some people I email to are almost certain to forward my emails to others. I can't even tell you who received them. The emails went everywhere and that's the nature of email. People understand this and still I received messages from only four people asking to be taken off the email list during this entire process. Considering the number of emails that were sent, that's amazing. None of the other parents, to my knowledge, have been reprimanded for participating in this email campaign - and many of the emails by other parents were more "negative" than mine.

Let's be clear about the communication protocol. It is a directive by the school - not a contract between the school and parents that requires parents to suspend their first amendment freedoms. In fact, parents are absolutely entitled to communicate concerns with other parents, other teachers, relatives, prospective parents, God, their dog, in whatever way they choose - whether in person, by phone, by email or by telepathy. Highland Hall has no right to (or expectation that they can) suspend basic human communication. I never agreed to this protocol, nor do I agree to the tenets contained within it. While perhaps not originally intended as such, it is being used to isolate parents so that parents who have a complaint are frustrated or otherwise coerced into silence. Many parents could have the same complaint about a teacher but if they are to follow this protocol each thinks they are the only ones complaining. This is wrong, unhealthy and immoral. The communication protocol is a way for Highland Hall to control information and is another obvious and shameful action on the part of the school. Other parents who strictly adhered to the communications protocol to voice their concerns and complaints have also received notice that their child may not be re-enrolled. Let's be honest, the College just wants to weed out the complainers - it has nothing to do with following the communication protocol, it is about Highland Hall's need to control people.

You further declare "Your recent blind copy email, inviting people to a website where you have made a number of negative comments about Highland Hall and specific individuals in the community, is an example of your behavior."

Yes, it is an example of my behavior that I am proud of. My efforts to open a place for free dialog among the Highland Hall community are much more honest and noble than what anyone at Highland Hall has done. Highland Hall has had a web site for years and despite repeated requests has never offered a forum for open communications among parents. If Highland Hall would allow this on their own site, my efforts may have been unnecessary. Indeed, any such forum offered by Highland Hall would be sure to suffer heavy censorship and banishment of some "disgruntled" community members (like most of the Anthroposophical forums do). The site I invited parents to was created so that open dialog between people involved in Waldorf education could exist and hopefully bring them closer. It is uncensored and anyone may join and stay as long as they like and discuss anything they like. It is healthy to talk about things.

Regarding "negative" comments, my comments aren't negative, the atmosphere at Highland Hall is negative and my comments describe and reflect this. No specific individuals were mentioned in my posts but as with any close community, most of us in the community have a good idea of who the players are. When I related my response to a private email, I was careful to remove references to individuals. It is curious that not a single parent has posted a positive comment about Highland Hall. For that matter, no teacher, board member, college member or administrator has made the slightest effort to challenge anything that I have said. That's because I always speak the truth. Some people don't like this. Apparently, many people from our community have signed up for notification whenever new posts are made so certainly it behooves Highland Hall to set the record straight if I am not being truthful.

You state "You have also refused to meet with the group designated by the College to speak with your about your concerns and activities." I had to make a phone call to Highland Hall to find out what meeting this refers to. I am told it refers to one that was scheduled several months ago that I declined to attend after two other parents attended a similar meeting and were ambushed and humiliated by the "group". You expect me to welcome this sort of exchange? Your own actions have made this impossible.

You close with "Our decision only applies to {Daughter} and next year's sixth grade class. It does not apply to your other children at Highland Hall as long as you follow the guidelines of our communications protocol."
Why, I wonder does this only apply to {Daughter}? Why don't my public criticisms about Highland Hall affect the status of my other children? Could it be that {Daughter} has already decided not to return to Highland Hall next year? Could it be that she has made her desire to never return to Highland Hall clear to the school, to her lawyer, to her classmates? Why is this letter even necessary? Could it be to blackmail or shame me into compliance with the ridiculous communication protocol? To disgrace me in the community? Do you think that by taking this non-action with me you can satisfy other parents that something has been done?

I had a lot of concern when I realized I would have to tell {Daughter} about your cruel and unnecessarily hurtful letter. I let her read it herself. When she was finished - she cheered and asked me if she could call her friends and tell them the good news! She is excited about leaving Highland Hall and the mind control and humiliation that comes with it. It was as if a huge burden was lifted off her shoulders. Does your communication protocol allow her to share her excitement at leaving your school with her friends or is she still bound by your silly control issues now that she is out?

I understand why you don't like me rocking the boat. Clearly, this is not the boat I would have chosen if I knew at the beginning of this journey where this boat was headed. I am someone who regularly checks the integrity of the boat. Yet despite my diligent efforts, the boat has veered off course, as it commonly does, and the Captain has already run into an iceberg. The crew is straightening the deck chairs while I, one of the passengers, have noticed that the boat is sinking and have brought it to everyone's attention. Clearly, in your minds, I, the passenger must be to blame. Your conclusions don't hold water. Your actions don't hold water. Your characterizations of me don't hold water. Your boat is sinking, I'm trying to help you bail water and you're trying to throw me overboard. Fine, it's your boat - I can swim. Maybe without me, your boat will hold water.

What you have allowed to transpire, not just now but over many years at Highland Hall is shameful and you need to consider yourselves accountable. You are supposed to be educators, yet you let your arrogance and misapplications of your spiritual philosophy continually lead you to make terrible decisions that adversely and sometimes harmfully affect the children in your charge. You claim that the 6th grade class needs to heal. In reality, it is the school that needs to heal. This cannot happen until you realize that YOU need to heal - that your relationships with parents need to heal.

Open your eyes - I'm not the one with the behavioral problem here. You haven't the dignity or the courage to stand up and face for yourselves, let alone admit to the community, what has happened. One of your own, a Waldorf teacher, did cruel and horrible things to the children in her class. She humiliated them, emotionally tortured them, exposed them to horrible ideas that still give children nightmares and in some cases directed them to hide her actions from their own parents, even told them they didn't see what they saw with their own eyes. She admitted doing almost every one of these things. You all stood by her, watched her behave this way and later defended her when her actions were brought to the attention of the community. And you still do. Why? Is it because she's an Anthroposophist, and in your eyes, the worst Anthroposophist is better than the best outsider? Shame on all of you for harboring such prejudice. You let Anthroposophy guide you rather than truth and honesty - and believe me (and thousands of other people who have been exposed to and rejected Anthroposophy), there is a big difference. Your dishonesty causes people to repel you more than your philosophy does. It causes you to lose your most valuable asset - parents who are already enrolled in your school. My daughter saw through you - my sons will too in time. Any one of my kids has ten times more character than all of you collectively. You don't deserve them at your school and, in my view, you have nothing to offer them as long as you work outside of truth and honesty. I am proud of my behavior and feel nothing but shame for yours.

Pete Karaiskos

Highland Hall - Students Hitchhiking during Camping Trip

This letter is from June 6, 2005

Highland Hall Strikes Again

How about something more recent - last week.

Here's the set-up:

1. Highland Hall has a history of problems dating back more than 10 years and the recurring themes are poor leadership, cover-ups and misinforming parents, disregard for the law and supporting bad teachers while alienating good teachers.

2. Highland Hall regularly disguises itself after a crisis - sometimes with new administrators, sometimes by shifting power from College to Board, sometimes employing more creative methods.  After each disguise, Highland Hall tells the parent body "Now we're different - now you can trust us."  This is never the case - the same people who controlled the school 10 years ago are still screwing up the school now.

3.  The current implementation of leadership came on the heels of a crisis (as they always do) and was punctuated by the disbursement of the College of Teachers.  A governance consultant was called in to come up with a governance plan that would work around the missing College and provide a system of leadership that would relieve the Board from this responsibility.  The result was a 5 member "leadership team".

4.  The current 7th grade has been struggling with problems over the years - they have been through at least 5 teachers - 3 of which have left under crisis conditions.  Their current teacher has taken medical leave for the remainder of the year.  She is one of the good teachers the leadership team would like to replace.

5.  Three of the five members of the leadership team are parents in the 7th grade.  They supposedly exclude themselves from decisions involving the 7th grade.  The remaining two members are one kindergarten teacher and one nursery teacher.  Those who know my situation know why this is especially significant.

6.  At our teacher's suggestion, over two months, I prepared a 4 week main lesson block on mechanics (I've got 35 years of mechanical design experience).  I was told at the last minute by the leadership team that I would not be allowed to participate in this class.  They were happy to get my outline, however.

7.  Our teacher's one request for the camping trip was that I absolutely MUST go.  I have taken the kids on each camping trip since the 2nd grade with the exception of last year (and I was told by many people that it was a disaster).  I intended to (and promised them I would) take them this year.  The leadership team (two people) decided that only teachers would be allowed to go on the trip this year.  After a huge outcry from parents and a petition signed by the kids themselves, it was decided that parents and teachers would go on the trip.  Three experienced parents, an inexperienced leadership team member and two inexperienced teachers went on the trip.  I would NOT be allowed to go.  When, at a parent meeting, I asked why I was excluded, I was told that it was because I post criticisms of Highland Hall on the internet.  Gee, wonder why? 

So, here we are to present day - the camping trip was last week and, big surprise, a HUGE crisis due to inadequate supervision and poor leadership (one member of the leadership team was on the trip BTW).  Here's the report I got:

The campsite was at Big Sur (a coastal woodland in California).  The kids were directed to hike to the beach - a 4 mile down hill hike along a winding PUBLIC road.  For those who don't know, 4 miles for kids is a pretty long hike even if it is down hill.  After a pretty exhausting day at the beach, the kids were directed to HIKE BACK - 4 miles UP HILL.  Apparently, nobody had thought to arrange for the cars to be brought down to ferry the kids back.  The difficulty of the hike was too much for many of the kids - some broke down in tears - one was described as being hysterical. 

The kids did their best to cope with the mismanagement of the hike.  Some took it at their own pace and it was reported that the slowest group took an hour and a half to manage the 4 mile hike.  The kids were, in fact, spread out over the entire 4 miles (instead of being in supervised groups) and some took matters into their own hands.  THEY HITCHHIKED.  According to the most reliable report I received, at least 7 kids (and possibly many more) in different groups ACCEPTED RIDES FROM STRANGERS on a public road.  One group was reportedly spotted by supervisors more than once - told to get out of the cars and then, when the supervisors were out of sight, accepted another ride.  According to the report, one group accepted at least three rides to get to the campsite.  How could the supervisors who realized kids were hitchhiking and got them out of the car lose track of the same kids?  One report said all the boys in the class and a few of the girls accepted rides from strangers.  Again, this was a public road and there were private homes along the way - it was not a specific road to and from the campgrounds. 

Additionally, and I'm not sure if this event happened before or after the hitchhiking incidents - and how both events could occur on the same camping trip is amazing to me as red flags would have been waving furiously after the first event regardless of which event came first - but in any case a second incident occurred when the kids had been allowed to go to the river unsupervised.  They had been there with supervision on the previous day and had been jumping of a rock outcrop into the river.  The report I received was that the outcrop was 60 feet above the water - so I'm guessing it must have been 20 feet or more.  The problem is that the kid's feet came into hard contact with the bottom when they jumped in - i.e. the spot was too shallow for this activity.  I am going to assume that no supervisor tried this jump before letting children attempt it.  Anyway, the children were told on this day not to jump off the rocks - which, of course, they did - having no supervisor around to stop them (this is a no-brainer for me).  Thank God nobody jumped in head-first.

It was clear that the inexperience of the authoritative half the group (the teachers and leadership team member) had run amok and had not only put children in harm's way, AGAIN, but has exposed Highland Hall to multiple lawsuits.

An emergency meeting was called by the interim teacher.  He described the incidents differently than what had occurred.  It wasn't clear at all that more than one group of kids had hitchhiked.  It sounded like this was a single event.  He said that he had talked to all the parents of kids that had participated in this activity.  I felt relieved that my son was apparently not involved.  After the meeting, through another parent, I found out that my son WAS one of the kids that hitchhiked - and I was not informed.  When I asked the teacher about it, he said he had heard my son "may" have been involved but wasn't sure.  Bullshit!  I can't imagine that he wouldn't have asked to find out - and if he had heard this and didn't find out, then he is not doing his job.  I suspect that the information was kept from me intentionally. 

So now we have another crisis.  All because a petty leadership team felt they needed to exclude me from the camping trip.  Anyone who has ever been on a camping trip with me KNOWS this would never have happened if I was there.  NEVER in a million years.  YOU DON'T LEAVE KIDS UNSUPERVISED ON A PUBLIC ROAD!!!  EVER!!!  Every parent who knows me, I am sure, knows I would have gone head-to-head with anyone on the trip suggesting such a ridiculous plan.  Parents who entrust their kids to Highland Hall on camping trips expect a level of responsibility - they expect their kids to be safe, always.  This is something that Highland Hall apparently doesn't understand.  You DON'T have the right to do this to other people's children.  It is a BIG deal that this happened AND that the leadership team set it up to happen through their thoughtlessness.  And just like when children do something wrong, there WILL be consequences.

Pete Karaiskos