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Friday, March 4, 2011

Letters to Minor's Counsel - 1

Bruce D. Abramson
of Lense, Lense & Abramson

re: Dissolution of Karaiskos 

Dear Mr. Abramson,

I am in receipt a copy of Mr. Sobel's letter to you dated July 2, 2004.  I can confirm for you that I am indeed the author of the "open letter response" to Highland Hall that was posted on the website.  I signed the letter with my full name.  Furthermore, I can confirm Mr. Sobel's assumption that posts to that site by the author "PK" are, indeed, posts authored by me.

Of course you are free to draw your own conclusions regarding the posts I have made to this website.  I would like to point out, however, that in the topic Mr. Sobel references "Atlantis Coloring Book and Other WMDs", (a title that is, for those of us who know Waldorf practices, sarcastic in nature as Waldorf schools don't permit coloring books and discourage their use by children) my comments are absolutely constructive.  In many topics, including the Highland Hall area (listed under West Coast Schools) I have made many constructive comments and also some intended to initiate reform.  I have recapitulated my concerns dating back to the year 2001 in evidence of the fact that Highland Hall has been consistently unwilling to undergo a self-examination of its policies to the detriment of the children who attend school there.  Please, evaluate every comment by me and by others (especially two former Waldorf teachers "nmfoss" and "bdandje") as well as the many articles and references (links) to other websites that both support and critique Waldorf education.  It serves your clients well for you to get a clear picture of the environment they are in.

In the course of posting about Highland Hall specifically, I have received many private emails from parents who support my efforts.  More disturbingly, now that parents have become aware of my experiences with Highland Hall, parents have stepped forward to relate experiences involving their own children.  I am reluctant to provide these to you in any form other than a sealed document for your review only as these were intended to be private correspondences.  Some parents may choose to make their experiences public as they seem to be heartened by my courage to speak out.  I have found out about the experiences of other parents at Highland Hall only by circumventing the communications protocol restrictions and by participating in this open forum.  Highland Hall has gone to great lengths to discourage open discussion and to isolate parents in order to protect themselves from criticism they truly deserve.  

Some of the more disturbing reports I have read describe events some of which took place concurrent with events involving my own children.  The reports include two incidents of teachers having sexual relations and intercourse with students - one with a minor student, one with a student when she turned 18, several incidents of sexual harassment and threats by teachers and staff, at least two incidents of inappropriate physical (sexual) touching by a teacher, incidents of coercion to suppress testimony by children, incidents of failure to maintain the confidentiality of a minor and (and in fact publicizing information to the minor's peers), one incident of a teacher at the school being arrested for possession of child pornography and several instances when mandatory reporters failed to (and apparently conspired not to) contact authorities after repeated reports of inappropriate predatory activity by a teacher - instead choosing to badger, ostracize and belittle the students into reversing their testimony.  None of the above references are to any of the events I have already described regarding {Daughter}'s teacher, Mrs. Leonard who displayed similar behavior, or {Son}'s former teacher, Ms. Wilkins whose pedophile son was permitted to roam freely through the school and had regular unsupervised contact with {Son} and {Daughter}.  I believe the cloak of secrecy that envelopes Highland Hall allows (and perhaps invites) child predators to interact with children freely with the knowledge that their activities will be difficult to discover and in all likelyhood covered up out of the school's own desire for self-preservation and their need to misdirect public attention.  In many cases, people who have behaved improperly have been (and in some cases still are) supported by the school.

I expect criminal and civil action to be forthcoming against Highland Hall as more and more parents compare notes and more the truth about Highland Hall's behavior is revealed.  It is not my intention or desire to tear down a good school - it is my hope to expose a bad one for what it is.  It is clear to me that Highland Hall is an unsafe environment, not only because of a few "bad apples" (if sexual predators and child abusers can be characterized as such) but because of the schools initial response in each and every case to cover up the inappropriate and illegal behavior of their teachers and staff.  Even if none of what has been reported to me is true (although I have confirmed many of these reports from other sources), what I have witnessed personally is enough to give me considerable concern about this school. 

Mr. Sobel states "I do wish to express the concern of Ms. Karaiskos that {Daughter}, and probably the other children, are being involved in these matters to an inappropriate extent and in an inappropriate manner."  This is the rare occasion that I can wholeheartedly agree with Angela.  I can say with confidence that I am extremely concerned that the children are being involved to an inappropriate extent and in an inappropriate manner not by my critique of the school, but simply by their attendance at this school.  It is almost certain that discussions to discredit me in the eyes of my children have transpired at the school and at their mother's home, that innuendos and inappropriate commentary have reached their ears.  Lately, the children seem to be angry at me for no apparent reason other than the stress of conflict over what they have been told and what they know to be true. 

Certainly, the school has a history of dealing with troublesome parents discrediting them and by punishing their children.  In {Daughter}'s case this was evident and when the school realized they couldn't stop my emails  even with threats of lawsuits and arrest, they called me to inform me that {Daughter} may be forced to spend one or more days in the hot sun gardening as a punishment for "her" behavior.  If this type of action is appropriate for their school, they shouldn't be concerned when I discuss it in a public forum.

I would like to turn your attention to the wording of the letter from Highland Hall dated June 24, 2005.  I believe it exposes an intention that directly affects your clients.  The wording is in the last paragraph "Our decision only applies to {Daughter} and next year's sixth grade class."  What I am reading here is that this expulsion only applies for a year.  While on the surface this seems inconsequential as {Daughter} has expressed a desire to leave the school anyway, I am of the belief that {Daughter}'s mother will try to block efforts by me to put {Daughter} in a good public school in a safe school district where {Daughter} is likely to thrive and be happy.  I sadly believe it serves Angela's interests to have {Daughter} experience a difficult year in public school in hopes that she may change her mind and again return to the school of Angela's choice, Highland Hall.  To that end, Angela, I believe, will insist that {Daughter} attend school in an area close to Highland Hall in the difficult LAUSD.  This would not be in {Daughter}'s best interests as a school in a safer school district would be far more beneficial to her and would allow her to begin healing from the previous year's stressful situations.  I would hope you consider this possibility in any decisions you make regarding {Daughter}'s placement in public school if it is your intention to allow this.

It almost goes without saying that the entire letter from Highland Hall was intended to provoke a response from me.  It simply could have read "The College of Highland Hall Waldorf School has decided that the school cannot re-enroll {Daughter} for the 2004-2005 school year.  Please contact us if you feel you would like to discuss this matter in detail."  Instead, they chose to indict me about my "behavior" and activities.  I have no control over what Highland Hall does, what they write or how they behave.  I can only bring it to people's attention.  My troubles with Highland Hall will continue as long as they behave unprofessionally, immorally and illegally and in a way that is damaging to children - not just my own, but all children.  I hold out no hope that any of that will change despite my efforts to work toward a positive and productive reform of the school.  I understand that this makes it difficult for the school and for my children.  My parental obligation is to ensure that my kids are safe, not just physically but emotionally and psychologically.  My moral obligation is to expose Highland Hall to other parents whose children might be placed there.  I don't believe Highland Hall provides a healthy environment for my children and as long as they are there, it will be my responsibility to ensure their safety.  I don't trust Highland Hall because they have repeatedly lied not just to me but to many, many parents.  They have coerced children (even my own) through ridicule, fear and punishment.  They have avoided and conspired to avoid the state-mandated reporting that is in place to protect children.  It is my hope that you will clarify and support the need for healthy communications on both sides of this issue if any of the children are required to remain there.

In another communication you have asked for a response from me as to where I am considering moving to.  It is yet unclear if any funds will be released for me to spend on housing or moving expenses and I am guessing some court action will have to transpire before I am able to determine if I am buying or renting and whether I will be able to afford a home or an apartment or which areas will be affordable to me.  Keeping in mind that proximity to the children's school and friends is important but also that I have family (including the children's elderly grandmother) near my current home and that most of my established clients are also near my current home, the location I am most interested in is Simi Valley.  It is one of the safest cities in the world and is a 10 minute drive from Highland Hall and not too far from the children's friends, my established business contacts and the children's extended family.  This would appear to have the benefit of good proximity to the school and a clean, safe living environment not commonly found in the San Fernando Valley.  Housing is not particularly expensive and public schools in the area are very good.  I have discussed this area with the kids and we are in agreement that this would be acceptable.    

When we last spoke, you asked me to prepare several custody schedules for consideration.  As Highland Hall school has taken action against {Daughter}, some of the custody schedules I prepared are now rendered irrelevant, however I have prepared two proposed custody arrangements for the condition of 1 or more children attend Highland Hall and two for the condition of all three children attend public school.  I would like to fax them to you directly if possible.  The children have expressed to me a preference for schedules of one week with each parent without regard to birthdays, holidays and so forth - each parent driving the children to and from social events during their custody time.  I have tried to adjust my home relocation plans to accommodate their wishes. 

For the proposals in which the children attend public school, I have indicated shared legal custody would be appropriate.  For the proposals in which any of the children attend Highland Hall, I have asked for full legal custody.  I have done this out of necessity for the children's well-being and not out of any selfishness or presumed ulterior motives to remove them from the school.  I feel that enough evidence has surfaced regarding Highland Hall's actions to legitimize my request for full legal custody.  I will promise to respect the wishes of any of my children who choose to attend Highland Hall but would like the legal right to act unilaterally on their behalf if they decide not to attend this school as I am certain their mother would block any attempts by them to leave.  I feel that their mother's connection with Highland Hall, her job status and her belief system as an Anthroposophist precludes her from taking legitimate action on behalf of her children against Highland Hall. 

For the children to attend Highland Hall, I would request assurances from the school that both {Daughter} and I would be permitted to attend regular school events and functions as we have in the past, and that threats of arrest against me would cease.  I have never been confrontational, only outspoken, but if I ever do something that warrants arrest, they have the right and obligation to have me arrested - threatening arrest is immature and serves no purpose other than to generate gossip and rumors that my children eventually hear.  I would expect teachers to contact me directly when my children are not doing well in school and initially I would contact the teachers directly when I feel a problem has surfaced.  I would expect communications with administrators and faculty to be non-confrontational and professional.  I feel these are reasonable requests and expectations that would be at the forefront of working toward a positive experience for the children. 

Thank you, sir, for your work with the children.  As you are aware, this has been a difficult time for them and you have empowered them to make their desires known.  I very much appreciate this.


Pete Karaiskos