School districts offer settlement in Waldorf curriculum case
To avoid litigation, a couple of public school districts in California have agreed to a federal injunction barring the use of a curriculum that a group of parents said was steeped with religion.
Last year a group called the People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools sued the Sacramento City Unified School District and the Twin Ridges Elementary School District in federal court for permitting schools to use a Waldorf education curriculum. Waldorf education has its roots in the spiritual-scientific research of the early 20th-century scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Steiner founded anthroposophy, which focuses on cultivating the child's imagination. Waldorf curriculum integrates the arts into all subjects, including math and science.
The school districts had asked the federal court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the curriculum was adopted for secular reasons.
On Sept. 24, U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell ruled in favor of the People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools, saying the group had presented enough evidence to warrant further hearings to determine whether “informed elementary school students might perceive a message of endorsement of anthroposophy in the use of Waldorf education methods.”
Attorneys for both school districts submitted an offer of settlement to Damrell yesterday. The offer agrees to a permanent injunction “prohibiting the teaching of anthroposophy or the published works of Rudolf Steiner” in the districts' schools and “prohibiting any affiliation between the Sacramento City Unified School District and Twin Ridges Elementary School District and the Anthroposophical Society, the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America or Rudolf Steiner College.”
The school districts also offered to pay $30,000 in attorney fees and court costs to the People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools.
Christian M. Keiner, an attorney for the school districts, said that the group had 10 days to decide whether to accept the settlement offer.
“This offer, if accepted by PLANS, would result in a permanent injunction prohibiting the classroom teaching of anthroposophy or the published works of Rudolph Steiner,” Keiner said. “This offer would save the taxpayers' money. It would remove any conceivable potential for unconstitutionality in either school, while allowing both innovative programs to continue for the benefit of students.”
Calls to Scott M. Kendall, attorney for PLANS, were not returned.