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Saturday, October 9, 2010

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.