A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit that has kept the Sacramento City Unified School District in court for nearly 13 years fending off a challenge to the Waldorf teaching method used in two district schools.
People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools, or PLANS Inc., sued the district in 1998, claiming the method is inextricably linked to anthroposophy – the philosophy of Waldorf method founder Rudolf Steiner. The suit contended anthroposophy is a religion and that its use in public schools violates the First Amendment's establishment clause, which precludes mixing religion with government institutions.
A lawyer for PLANS said Saturday that an appeal is likely. School district spokesman Gabe Ross declined to comment.
John Morse Waldorf Methods School, established in 1996 with grades K-8, was the original target of the lawsuit. The district opened a small Waldorf high school – George Washington Carver School of Arts and Sciences – three years ago.
In Waldorf education, the arts are integrated into all subjects, including math and science. Students begin each school day with a two-hour main lesson, learning subjects in intensive three-to-four-week blocks. Storytelling, reading of myths and legends, and learning handcrafts, cooking, gardening, painting, music and movement are part of the method.
At a non-jury trial Aug. 31 before U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr., PLANS attorney Donald Michael Bush put on a single witness – Betty Staley, founder of the Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks – and presented the few exhibits Damrell allowed into evidence.
At the end of Staley's testimony, school district attorney Michelle Cannon asked Damrell to dismiss the lawsuit, contending Bush did not make his case. The judge allowed the lawyers to argue and then ordered further briefing.
In a 20-page order issued Friday, Damrell agreed that Bush had failed to show that anthroposophy is a religion, and he dismissed the lawsuit.