California school district wins Waldorf methods case

Von NNA staff

SACRAMENTO (NNA) - A school district in California has successfully fought off a challenge to be allowed to use Waldorf methods instruction in public schools and publicly-funded charter schools.

In an unpublished judgement, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling of the Eastern District Court in favour of the Sacramento City Unified School District that the use of Waldorf methods in public schools did not breach the so-called Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution which prohibits the establishment of religion by government.

“The conclusion of this lengthy litigation means the use of Waldorf methods instruction in public schools or publicly funded charter schools has successfully survived it’s first major legal challenge,” KMTG, the law firm which conducted the case on behalf of the school district, said in a legal alert on the JD Supra website. 

The case was originally brought by the grouping People for Legal Non-Sectarian Schools (PLANS) in 1998 which had argued that Waldorf methods were rooted in anthroposophy, which in turn was a religion, and should therefore not be allowed to be used in public or publicly-funded schools.

Before the hearing earlier this month, the Pacific Justice Institute which has provided legal support for PLANS, wrote in a press release: “PLANS contends that Waldorf-method schools should not be publicly funded because they are based on spiritualist beliefs such as reincarnation.”

The appeal court has now found on the evidence it considered that PLANS had failed to meet its burden of proving that anthroposophy is a religion for purposes of the Establishment Clause.    

KMTG did, nevertheless, sound a note of caution: “However, because the Ninth Circuit and district court did not fully review the programs at issue, other litigants may arise in the future to challenge these types of innovative educational programmes.”


Item: 120625-01EN Date: 25 June 2012

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