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Waldorf Education - One family's story

The school take us to court

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After discussing our experiences with the Waldorf Survivors support group, we decided we would refuse to pay the school any more money. By now it was obvious that Richard was years behind academically and Joanna's mental health had taken another turn for the worse. She  had begun a course at art college but her sleeping problems and social phobia had become worse and she had had to give it up. We still felt a lot of her problems had been triggered by her experiences at the Waldorf school. I had decided that I would write to them and tell them of our decision and explain the reasons, but as it was late November, I decided to wait until after Christmas.
 
Two weeks before Christmas I went to their Advent Fayre. I still felt I had many friends there and Richard wanted to see his old classmates.
 
The following Saturday  we received a letter from them telling us they were taking immediate court action to recover the arreas. It had been posted the Monday after seeing us at the Fayre, but perhaps that was coincidence. There was no time even to send a reply by post as the court papers were to be filed the following Monday and their letter had been sent second class. I e-mailed a reply refusing to pay the money and explaining my reasons.
 
For almost three months we heard nothing. They took no court action and didn't contact us. Then we received a letter. They suggested that the way forward was to seperate our debt from our feelings about the school. I was tempted to reply that this did not seem a very holistic approach. Actually, I was very angry. I had told them everything that had happened to all of our children, how Joanna had never recovered from her experiences, how Richard was unable to cope at state school, and they hadn't said a word about any of it.
 
I appreciate that from a legal point of view they may not have wanted to admit any responsibility, but I had expected them say  they were sorry to hear how ill Joanna was and how unhappy Richard was, and perhaps add, but we do not feel the school holds responsibility, but they expressed no concern at all.
 
They said they would pursue the matter of the debt, in court if necessary. They did offer what they called mediation. This involved our meeting with a group of people from the school to discuss our 'feelings'. I did consider this, but after what had happened at our last meeting, which we had also been told was to discuss our situation, and which ended up being their opportunity to criticise and verbally abuse us, with us being given little opportunity to talk at all, I really didn't feel able to trust them. I was also very much aware that 'mediation' had only been offered after we had refused to pay. I didn't want to be hurt any more.
 
Our next contact with the school was when a parent who had also been a friend rang us. She and her husband had rang a few times after we left offering us support. She was not aware, though, that Richard had left the state school he had gone on to because he could not cope with the work there. When she heared this she began trying to persuade me to send him back to the Waldorf school. She said she would try to negotiate a deal with them about the arreas. I said I didn't think Richard wanted to go back and I wasn't sure I would be able to trust the school again, but I would think it over. I didn't ring her back because Richard was adamant that he would never go back and I didn't want to go through all of that again. She did call me again, though, and I told her our feelings about it.
 
Not long after this phone call to my friend we received another letter from the school. This reiterrated their intentions to go to court. They still did not refer to our personal circumstances but did state that what I had read on the Internet about it being their policy not to interfere with bullying because children were working through their Karma was not true.
 
They pointed out their bullying policy, which had in fact only been in the school handbook for a year previous to our leaving. I felt like pointing out other inaccuracies in the school handbook, for example parents being offered a leaving interview in which they could express any worries in order to leave on a positive note. That was never offered to us. However, in the end, I just reiterated our feelings and said the time for mediation was long past.

We did not hear from them again officially until the following October. I did, however, meet the Chairman of the school council in town at the beginning of the September. He acted as though he intensely disliked the situation he was in and was being pushed by other council members, in fact he actually said this. He asked if we could meet to discuss things. I said I wasn't sure about this as I was still finding any contact with people from the school intensely painful. He said that I had his number if I changed my mind. I did consider arranging to meet him, but at this time Joanna was going through a really difficult time. She had become very depressed and we were very worried about her.

 We were still considering it a few weeks later when we received notification from the school that court action was going ahead. I had already told them that if they took us to court I would file a defence stating that Richard's education had not been up to the standard we had been promised. This was in fact true. We had been told many times that Waldorf children would have not problems transferring to the state system and also that by Class 5 (age 11) they would be level with the National Curriculum. But we only really used this defence because we had no other. Our real reasons for feeling we should not pay them another penny was before us every day.

 Our daughter's health was getting worse before our eyes. Since the age of about 11 new memories of the bullying she had experienced had been surfacing. She had been unable to stay at any school since the age of 12. She was also unable to make relationships with other children because she was unable to trust. Since abandoning college at 16 she had stayed home. By now she never went out, rarely got dressed and was sinking into deep depression. I felt that to pay them a penny would have been further abuse. I felt they owed us compensation for what they had done to her. So when we got the court summons we filed our defence.

 By this time the whole thing was causing our whole family intense stress. We were dealing with a court action from people whom we had once believed to be friends. We had a 14 year old son out of school. an older son drifting from one job to another because he hadn't had the help he needed, and a severely depressed daughter. I also suffer with chronic migraine. One evening, as I was getting ready to go out, the whole thing erupted into a row. I said something that I shouldn't have said to Joanna and she ran upstairs. I was on my way to the car when, finding I had forgotten something, I came back to the house just in time to discover Joanna trying to slash her wrists.

"They would not listen, they did not know how,

 Perhaps they'll listen now."

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After Joanna's suicide attempt I was feeling about as low as you can get and as angry as you can get with the school. It was certainly the pressure from them that had caused me to snap. One evening I was surfing the web with no real purpose when I came across a site where you could email your MP. On impulse I got in touch with him and asked if he could help. I told him only the bare bones of the story, that the school was threatening court action for a debt we felt we could not pay and of my daughter's state of health.

However, after I had had time to think, I decided that in order to protect the family, I should give up this fight. I emailed the chairman of the council and told him the whole story of Joanna's suicide attempt and how I felt it was the strain of the upcoming court case that had caused the row that had led to it. I said that, in order to save the family, particularly Joanna, from further stress, I was now willing to  make monthly payments at the level that had been suggested by him. I heard nothing. Eventually I received an email stating that, since I had not contacted the school, they had gone ahead with the final court papers!

I couldn't believed this. The email making the offer was in my sent folder. I emailed back and asked if he had received it but received no reply. I rang my friend who had given me support before and discovered that our MP had written to them just before I made my offer.
 
I am not sure how much my having contacted our MP influenced the school's actions. We received the court papers shortly before Christmas, almost exactly a year since we had received their other letter. They were experts in attempting to destroy our festive season. When the papers arrived, they included their reply to the MP's letter. It was three pages of A4 long and made many untrue allegations about us, among them was the statment that our daughter had been emotionally disturbed from the beginning and that they had felt duty bound to inform social services. They didn't mention that social services had investigated us and found no evidence of any abuse or serious problems. They also said that we had requested that Richard should return to the school which was totally untrue.
 
There was also a copy of a letter supposedly sent to us a few weeks earlier offering to reconsider the debt if we came to mediation. We never received this letter. If we had we would have accepted. I have my doubts it was ever sent.
 
They won the court case. They totally denied that we had been led to believe that our children would be level with state schools by the age of eleven. They said this was not in the school prospectus, which is true. The magistrate was of the opinion that parents who had been at the school for seventeen years would be aware of school policy. That was a reasonable assumption. He didn't believe my claim that it was deliberately hidden from us and said that letters from parents from other Waldorf schools with the same experience as us was not admissible evidence. We were ordered to repay the debt at 10 a month.
 
 

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I payed three payments and then, due to a misunderstanding with my husband, didn't pay for a while. I thought he had attended to it. By the time When I discovered that he hadn't several months later, I thought maybe the school had decided not to bother to pusue the debt any more. We haven't heard from them since.
 
I'm not sure if they feel that by taking us to court they have proved a point. We had offered them payments anyway and would have gone to that amount. I think they may have been hoping that we would be ordered to repay the whole debt, but this would only have been possible by us obtaining a second mortgage and no court would order that. Perhaps they didn't believe we had no money, or maybe they thought that we would remortgage and pay the full amount at the last moment.
 
Because they have stopped pursuing us and I promised that I would not go public if they dropped their claims to the money, I have not identified the name of the school on this website.

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