- Posted April 29, 2014 by
El Sobrante, California
Update Regarding Sexual Assault on 6 Year Old at East Bay Waldorf School
This is a statement to the Bay Area parenting and schooling community at large about what happened to my daughter at the East Bay Waldorf School in January of 2014. I'd like to state that at the start of this year there were 20 children in the 1st grade class, and now there are 15. In the Fall I know there will be no more than 14 of the kids that were there this year.
I am a single mom and have been sending my daughter on scholarship to EBWS since 2012. We greatly enjoyed kindergarten, and despite my reservations about the religious aspects of the school we decided to move onto 1st grade. During the first few months of 1st grade, it became clear that there were no anti-bullying systems in place, and many children in the class got bullied to the point of physical and sexual assault (3 of the latter, not including ours). I only learned about the gravity of the incidents in early January, and additionally learned that the parents themselves had decided not to tell the rest of the class because they felt the issues had been "resolved". Unfortunately this was not the case, and as a result of the school's silence my daughter was the victim of a planned attack by 2 of her male classmates who held her down on the ground and pressed a wood chip into her private area and then her belly button. I disclose this information with a heavy heart, since this is such a private trauma and we have done a lot of therapy in order to move forward from it. But given how much hearsay there has been, I feel compelled to give this statement. I removed her from the school that very day, with a hope that the community would want to work towards making things right and we could return soon.
I had been working as an Aftercare Assistant since last October, and when I showed up for my shift that day in January, my daughter's teacher informed me that she had seen a squabble on the playground and run up to stop it. Then she learned from the two girls that were present (my daughter and another girl who got away with a scrape on her arm before they could carry out the act a second time) that the boys had discussed their plan before hand, and then carried out this act which clearly crossed a very serious boundary. After telling myself and the mother of the other girl what had happened, the teacher offered "apology cards" from the boys to both girls as a consolation, which I saw as an extremely poor repercussion for their actions. I've been told that this was "normal playground behavior", but those who work with victims of rape will tell you the opposite. At this point I also want to say that although what the children did was wrong, I am not so angered at their actions as I am at the school's silence on the matter, as well as their neglect to rectify the situation with our family.
I wrote a letter to the Board and asked them for answers and actions. Their response was, "We're working on it." I told them that if they didn't change anything, that I would call the police and the media. They chose to tell me that it wasn't my business what they were planning to do. So I called KTVU, I called the police, and I got a lawyer. The lawyer advised me not to talk to anyone, so although I had planned a meeting with a reporter, when he showed up I referred him to my friend who had many of her own issues with the school. She chose to tell him about the "emergency meeting" that had been called, and he came there with a newsvan but left with only a short clip from my lawyer. Had I not done these things, this incident and all the issues from this year would have been swept under the rug and no formal meetings would have followed. Unfortunately, the news reporter grossly misquoted me, as I had never told him that anyone was disrobed during this incident. And although this had many repercussions, the good thing that came out of it is that parents started asking questions. EBWS has a history of silencing people, and I have since met many who have left or been ejected from the community and have decided to stay silent because it's too painful to dig it up again.
The "emergency meeting" was a joke. Not only was the incident about my daughter not discussed, but the leaders of the school and other parents of the class bullied me openly in front of others while I sat there silently, as my lawyer had advised for me to do. The school told us no less than 7 times during this meeting that it was our fault that our children were misbehaving during school time, and that we need to step up to the plate to build community in order to avoid these behaviors. At no point did they take responsibility for any of their actions (or lack thereof), and at no point did they cite how they were going to help prevent any further issues from happening. If you read up on Rudolph Steiner's ideas about karma, you'll start to understand why this might be (check this one out for example: Karmic Relationships: Esoteric Studies - Volume 1: Lecture V).
I learned later that two of the most disruptive students had indeed been asked to leave, and that an aide had temporarily joined the class. Additionally, I learned that one of the boys involved in my daughter's incident was still in the classroom, and never heard anything from the family in terms of an apology or even recognition. However I learned this through the grapevine, and not from the school. They didn't reach out and say, "Let's figure out it." They didn't say, "How is your daughter?" They didn't say, "Are you coming back?" Instead, when I asked for a meeting where my lawyer would be present (which they had promised me in front of the entire 1st grade class), they simply declined. And amazingly, I am STILL getting harassing calls from the payment company which stopped being able to collect funds from me once I cancelled my bank account.
The school published several statements that included falsehoods: a statement saying there were only 2 children involved and that the wood chip only touched one child's belly button (in fact there were 4 involved, and the touching was more inappropriate than that), and another statement saying 4 children had left the class which simply evaded stating anything about my daughter's disappearance.
Finally, I want to say that the reason we and so many others came to this school is because it promised an alternative to the black and white education that exists today. We wanted so much to believe that being outdoors and working with their hands would serve the children so much better than xerox copies. And it can, but only when the administration doesn't come with a host of questionable practices and cult-like undertones. This school has a high turnover rate for a reason. People can't or won't handle their backwards politics. Your families deserve better. We are still picking up the pieces, but I hope you never have to.