Crossing Many Lines

When I created this page, in 2009, I assumed the events reported in "No Class Act" (below) were extremely uncommon, and probably they were not indicative of systemic problems in the Waldorf movement. Subsequent discoveries have led to me reconsider. Authorities such as Grégoire Perra indicate that the lines between faculty and students are often crossed at Waldorf schools, and thus romantic overtures and attachments between teachers and students may occur with some regularity. Perra has also written of marital infidelities and sexual rivalries within Waldorf faculties. Consequently, I have added relevant sections from Perra's work to this page. Moreover, a shocking situation at an American Waldorf school has recently come to light. I have therefore added documentation concerning that matter.

— Roger Rawlings

October, 2015

Here is a horrifying news account about a Waldorf school. Presumably this school is an extreme case. Presumably such misbehavior is not found at other Waldorf schools — or at least, such behavior may not happen exclusively at Waldorf schools. Still...

While the details of events described in the news report may be unique, some elements in the report are reminiscent of issues I cover in "Report Card" and "Slaps" as well as other essays here at Waldorf Watch.

— Roger Rawlings

August, 2009


By Tim Elliott

Brisbane Times.com.au

July 11, 2009

As an English teacher with a penchant for romantic poetry, Roger Graham knows how to write a love letter. But in 2001 when he began writing to one of his 16-year-old female students, the married Graham, in his fifties, may have penned the final chapter for the Newcastle Waldorf School, a Rudolf Steiner school he helped establish in the early 1980s.

"Dearest heart! Most beloved, heart of my heart!" he wrote to the girl, then in the same class as his daughter. "I yearn for your lips and arms … “

Graham wrote to "my luminous goddess" some 20 times over the next six months, during which they began a physical relationship, hugging and kissing before, during and after school.

"He touched my chest a few times and often squeezed my bottom," she wrote in a 2006 report to the NSW Ombudsman. They went to dinner together, and occasionally met after school at Newcastle's Dixon Beach, where Graham took the girl "up to the bushy hillside and was on top of me, kissing".

She wrote: "Perhaps the whole thing was a turn-on for him. Certainly he seemed to take more risks as time went on."

The relationship was discovered in May 2001, and Graham was stood down on full pay. Even then, he continued to write to the girl, his letters passed on by the school's co-founder and senior teacher, Keitha Montefiore.

In 2003 Graham was re-employed as a consultant to the school, but the position was terminated in 2006.

"Now, slowly but surely, Roger has started to appear around the school again," says Deb Wood, a parent of a former student. "There has been a push to get him back into the school, because they regard him as a guru. Staff members even approached the girl and her mother to see if they would not kick up a stink about Roger coming back.”

The headmaster, Phillip Ewers, confirmed Graham has been allowed to "help in the school's garden, so long as there are no kids around. He has not been re-employed by the school, as that would be totally inappropriate". But Ewers also confirmed Graham has been lecturing in Steiner philosophy to the school's teachers.

For Wood it was the last straw. "I withdrew my daughter late last year, after it became apparent to me that none of the teachers, male or female, saw the inappropriateness of Roger having a relationship with an adolescent student.”

Graham's re-emergence is the latest in a long line of controversies at the 140-student school, including the sexual grooming of students by male and female teachers in the mid-2000s and allegations of emotional and physical abuse dating back to the early 1990s.

In 1995 eight children and several parents made statements to the child protection and investigation unit of Newcastle Police, alleging seven teachers shook, choked, hit and kicked students as young as seven. A teacher also reportedly pushed a boy through a classroom window, breaking his arm.

The school — the recipient last year of $800,000 in state and federal funding — has since been the subject of complaints to the Department of Community Services, the NSW Ombudsman, the Association of Independent Schools, the Board of Studies and politicians.

"And yet nothing ever seemed to change," says Peta Ridgeway, who removed her children from the school at the end of 2006. "It's a mystery to me how the place wasn't closed down.”

Set on 2.5 hectares of disused turkey farm in Newcastle's western suburbs, the school offers a holistic, arts-intensive education in line with the Austrian educator Steiner's "head, hands and heart" philosophy. Sometimes referred to as Waldorf education — the first school, in Stuttgart in 1919, was for children of Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Factory workers — Steiner schools aim to unlock the potential of childhood by focusing less on schedules and instruction and more on imagination, spiritualism and storytelling.

Many parents told the Herald of being initially attracted to the school's perceived freedoms, including lack of uniform, long play in natural surroundings and a sheltering from the excesses of popular culture.

"They espouse all these beautiful things about 'the kingdom of childhood' and the creative and expressive side of the education," says Maria Larratt, who withdrew her son Leo in June 2006. "But after a while you start to notice some strange things about the way the place is run.”

Parents, former students and former staff allege a culture of secrecy, denial and cover-up at the school, which they claim is run as a private fiefdom of Montefiore and Graham, until the latter's dismissal.

Montefiore — whose four children have taught at the school — "is a power unto herself", says a former member of the school board. "And they all idolise Roger. When the board dismissed him, two female teachers came to me, weeping, and begged me not to do it."

Several teachers have gone on to marry former students, who in turn became teachers at the school. "The whole place is incredibly incestuous and parochial," says the former board member.

The school prides itself on rejecting political correctness, which it accuses of denying the "conscious brotherhood" that might help "mankind enhance the next era of evolution". In the Middle Ages, the school website adds, such brotherhoods or "guilds" educated and protected members, "making decisions on important matters" without the entanglement of today's abstruse laws.

While not accredited to teach years 11 and 12, the school regularly invites its more promising students — the "culturally worthy" — to stay on as "colleagues". These students attend TAFE as well as the Newcastle Waldorf School in year 11, but the school exclusively in year 12.

Called the College of Students, the practice has led to an unusual level of fraternisation between students and teachers. In 2006 a female teacher was dismissed, allegedly for inappropriate contact with two male year 12 students. That same year, a male teacher resigned, reportedly after a physical altercation with a student.

Of most concern perhaps has been the school's history of unorthodox discipline — what a Newcastle DOCS officer described in a 1995 letter to the school as a "concerning pattern of [the] use of physical force". The letter queried the school's solicitor, Bruce Hansen, about the use of "milkshakes", together with teachers pushing, throttling and kicking children, and quoted a girl, 8, claiming "nearly all of the teachers tell you that if you tell your mum you get more of it tomorrow”.

Maria Larratt first became concerned in 2002, when her five-year old son Leo came home talking about how he received a "milkshake" from Montefiore. When Larratt and her husband asked what he meant, Leo picked up a doll, grabbed it by the shoulders and shook it violently.

"I confronted Keitha about it, but she downplayed the incident," Larratt says. "Later, in 2006, I found out that it was commonplace, and that they used it to 'shake the kids into consciousness’."

Trish Alford says her son Daniel, who left in 2006, became physically sick at the prospect of attending the school. "Only once he knew he was never going back did he tell me everything, how he'd been given 'milkshakes', about how he saw another boy being thrown off his seat, and another being threatened with being thrown off the balcony, and how one of the teachers had thrown a box of crayons across the room at a girl.”

DOCS received reports of risk of harm against specific children in 1991, 1995 and 2000; a further nine instances were reported and investigated in 2006 and 2007, and one last year.

A DOCS spokeswoman says this was an "uncommon" number of complaints, but that "in all cases the children had been removed from the school, which means that it's no longer our responsibility. But we did refer the concerns to the Ombudsman and school principal.”

The principal, Ewers, says "milkshakes" are "ancient history". Montefiore says "teachers don't shake kids”.

Not everyone is convinced, however. A local doctor, Jennie Broughton, withdrew her child from the school last year.

"From my personal experience, issues of child safety were not clearly addressed, and I was concerned that boundaries between students and teachers were not maintained," Broughton says.

"I was also gravely concerned about the ongoing involvement of Roger Graham and his psychological influence on the school culture."

Parents who have complained are baffled by what they claim is a lack of remedial action. "Every time the Board of Studies comes to accredit the school, it goes through a period of window dressing," one parent told the Herald. "I've come to believe that nothing will change until Keitha and Roger have been totally removed from that school."

[End of the article]


I'll add a few comments.

The situation at Newcastle Waldorf School seems genuinely horrendous. Of course, such situations do not arise only at Waldorf schools, and — to turn the matter around — perhaps no other Waldorf school has seen events precisely like those that allegedly occurred at Newcastle. (Importantly, we must bear in mind that the news account could be mistaken in minor or major ways. Roger Graham must be considered innocent until proven guilty.)

Still, I would argue that Waldorf schools create an atmosphere in which such problems may easily develop — an atmosphere in which teachers may easily wind up abusing students. Waldorf schools are meant to be authoritarian. Steiner said the following about students’ souls:

"[Their] souls are open to consciously receiving what works on them from teachers on the basis of a natural, unquestioned authority." — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 4.

Waldorf teachers should have unquestioned authority, especially over the youngest students.

Steiner also said,

“The situation is that we need to create a mood, namely, that the teacher has something to say that the children should neither judge nor discuss ... An actual discussion lowers the content ... That is something I mentioned before in connection with ‘discussion meetings.’ They need to be avoided.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 495.

Students — even older ones — should sit down, shut up, and accept what they are told without judgment or discussion.

Steiner expected parents, also, to accept Waldorf teachers’ authority with a minimum of questioning or discussion.

What happens when people are given unquestioned, unsupervised authority over others? They almost inevitably abuse such authority — that is, they abuse the people who are under their control. It is sadly true that power corrupts.

Waldorf schools are dangerous places for many reasons, and this is one of them. The schools are authoritarian, which means that sooner or later Waldorf teachers are likely to misuse their unquestioned power. The misuse may not always entail physical violence; it may not usually entail sexual misconduct. More generally in Waldorf schools, the misuse of power entails luring children into dark, empty occultism — i.e., luring the children toward Anthroposophy, often without the consent of the children’s parents. Quiet manipulation of this sort may not seem abusive, but it is abusive — potentially very severely so. Teaching kids that the real is unreal (the physical universe is illusory) and the unreal is real (karma, gnomes, and all manner of mystical fantasies are real) can cause deep psychological damage. It can unfit children for real life, making them dissatisfied with everything that is possible in the real world, while encouraging them to form impossible yearnings for the otherworldly.

This danger is accentuated at Waldorf schools by other factors. The conception of human nature preached by Steiner is utterly bizarre and unrealistic. As a result, devoted followers of Steiner may have great difficulty understanding their own motivations. Who knows what was going through Roger Graham's mind when he wrote to, and later caressed, his "luminous goddess"? (For the sake of argument, at least, let's assume for the present that the news account is accurate in these matters.) Think of the spiritualistic meaning an Anthroposophist might find in such words as "luminous goddess," or in the phrase "heart of my heart." Did Graham think the young woman was his spiritual soulmate? Did he think his karma and hers were entwined? Did he find his passion to be a form of spiritual exaltation? Did he fail to realize that he, like all men, can be excited by a nubile young woman in ways that are entirely earthly, not in the least spiritual?

The sense of moral and spiritual superiority within Waldorf communities also may lead to behavior like Graham's reported misdeeds. Anthroposophists believe they possess truths that most of the rest of us don't. They have, in their own opinion, a superior vision. Perhaps they are more highly evolved than other humans. Perhaps their spirits are purer. Perhaps the rules applying to the rest of us don't apply to them. Certainly they feel justified in lying to outsiders, disguising their real intentions, and blurring societal lines, such as the distinction between secular tax-supported schools and private religious schools. If the morality and laws of the secular world don't apply to Waldorf teachers in some matters, maybe they don't apply to them in other matters as well — such as sexual predation. At the least, note that other faculty members pleaded for Roger Graham:

"When the board dismissed him, two female teachers came to me, weeping, and begged me not to do it."

They apparently considered Graham to be above sanction.

This reflects the enclosed, cult-like culture of many Waldorf schools. Waldorf schools are often spiritually incestuous. Deeply committed members of the faculty may look exclusively to the tiny Waldorf community for friendship and support. They think they see in one another qualities that outsiders lack.

“When we today — permeated even a little with anthroposophical consciousness — take a walk in the streets, we no longer see human people; rather we see moles that move about in the smallest of circles....” — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 92.

It isn't surprising, then, if Waldorf teachers seek sexual partners only within their cult, even if the partners they find would be off limits according to the rules of the blind "moles." Indeed, forbidden sex may be all the more exciting if it is interpreted (perhaps just in one man's mind) as being entirely, spiritually proper within the uniquely glorious community of a cult.

To my mind, one of the most troubling elements in the "culture" of the Waldorf School at Newcastle is shown in this:

"While not accredited to teach years 11 and 12, the school regularly invites its more promising students — the 'culturally worthy' — to stay on as 'colleagues' ... Called the College of Students, the practice has led to an unusual level of fraternisation between students and teachers."

This reflects an extraordinary degree of self-approbation and elitism. The teachers of the Waldorf inner circle (called the College of Teachers, at many Waldorfs) select the most "worthy" students to join them in a fraternity that considers itself superior to the world outside the school. This is a cult recruiting new cult members. It is a disaster waiting to explode — and, at Graham's school, the explosion occurred.

To reiterate: Sexual abuse of minors is in no way confined to Waldorf schools. Reports of such problems in all sorts of schools show up in newspapers all the time. The same is true of violence inflicted on minors. But if most Waldorf schools have not been scenes of sexual mistreatment and/or violence against children, some have. And a great many — perhaps all — Waldorf schools have been guilty of the psychological abuse of innocent children, twisting their conception of reality out of recognition. This is an important reason for opposing such schools. As authoritarian institutions, Waldorf schools are places where abuses arising from the corruption of unchallenged power are virtually guaranteed to occur, sooner or later.

— Roger Rawlings

August, 2009

For indications that the events at Newcastle were not completely unique

— indications that similar problems have arisen at other Waldorf schools —

see, e.g., "Slaps", "He Went to Waldorf", and "Mistreating Kids Lovingly".

Here are sections from Grégoire Perra's writings

that touch upon the unsavory matters we are considering.

From "He Went to Waldorf":

4. A Confusion of Roles

When I worked in one of these schools [i.e., a Waldorf school in France], I myself was quickly caught up in the whirlwind in which all lines of separation are erased. Very soon, our colleagues become a kind of family, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. Students become for us both our children and our friends and associates. There reigns a sort of permanent "incestuous" atmosphere that can go haywire very quickly for everyone. A mantra recited by the teaching community at some faculty meetings reflects this total confusion of identities:

Me in the community,

And the community in me.

Far from being a saying designed to encourage healthy collegial solidarity, these words rather reflect the total confusion of identities prevailing in the Waldorf school system. Nobody there knows who he is or what exactly his role is. This confusion between an educational institution and a family structure is reflected in the language used in schools, where students must call the teachers who oversee their individual work at the end of schooling (the masterpiece) their "godfathers" and "godmothers." Hierarchy officially is absent from the schools (since the teaching community is supposed to be self-organizing), but this produces power games and other profoundly unhealthy influences. Also, it is not surprising that this nebulous dissolution of personalities and responsibilities gives rise to accounts of illicit relations between teachers and students. It is what often happens. When the leaders of a Waldorf school gain knowledge of misconduct, they often respond by using it as leverage to control colleagues. I twice heard the stories of colleagues who were directed to one of the members of the College of Teachers (steering committee) of the school, to whom they confessed grave professional misconduct in their dealings with students (the teacher dating a student since she was in Third). No reprimand resulted, but they knew that the leaders of the school now possessed their secret and could use it against them if necessary. Criminal behavior by teachers was accepted within the pupil-teacher organization of the school, and it became leverage for the leaders. For what could be more intimidating than a fault that the leaders know about but choose to "keep under the table"?


From "Mistreating Kids Lovingly":

Do you remember how our class teacher shook our hands tightly each morning, looking straight into the eyes, as we entered the classroom, one by one? Do you remember also, on our first class trip in third grade, how he ritually came to see each student individually in their beds to give each a 'comfort hug' so they would not be afraid, sleeping for the first time away from their families? Remember also that, on each class trip, he slept with us in the same dorm? ... [This still goes on.] For class trips, some teachers settle in dormitories with the students. Not right up beside them, but somewhere in their midst. And I've received reports that in some Steiner-Waldorf kindergartens, children getting ready for naps have to strip down to their underwear, which is normally forbidden in French kindergartens. Some teachers go so far as to give the kids massages, applying Weleda oil to the skin, and then kissing them on the cheek before they fall asleep ... [A]fter some disturbing stories that came out a few years ago, for safety the ‘evening hug’ is only given by female teachers now. That said, between us, this is not very safe either. Female pedophiles may also exist ... [B]reaking down barriers and causing confusion between the spheres of the family and the school create an excellent method for producing an emotional hold on the students ... In the upper classes, something else is done. Some teachers then try to be pals more than parents for their students. Or perhaps both at the same time. It is serious if they don’t see the problem in bringing home a group of students during school hours to offer them tea. Or driving a student around town to various appointments in the teacher’s car. Or hiring students as babysitters and maids. All of this inevitably erases institutional and psychological boundaries, leading to excesses like those I denounce in ["He Went to Waldorf"]. Of course, this kind of irregular behavior is not standard in Steiner-Waldorf schools. But erasing boundaries makes irregularity acceptable in the eyes of all when it does occur. People establish their values based on the behavior they observe in their immediate circle. If promiscuity is the norm in a particular setting, we see no harm.


From "My Life Among the Anthroposophists":

During my first two years of teaching in a Waldorf school, although if it was only two hours a week, I began to get glimpses behind the scenes, particularly into the damaging social relations between the teachers there. Indeed, there was a promiscuity that had an injurious impact on the work environment. By promiscuity, I mean that extramarital relationships, deception, and "trading spouses" were common practices among the faculty. This often resulted in awkward situations, such as when the ex-husband of one became the close colleague of the other, and vice-versa. Sometimes deep and irreconcilable enmity arose because of actual or suspected infidelity. For instance, twenty years later, when a teacher died, I learned that an unremitting feud between his wife and one of her colleagues was explained by a clandestine extramarital conflict that embroiled them at the beginning of their careers. The wife in question had suspected misconduct by the other, with the result that she became a relentless critic of the other's teachings methods. Some particularly attractive male teachers and lecturers accumulated female conquests among the faculty and even among the young mothers of the school, who succumbed one after the other. This could produce highly embarrassing confrontations at parent-teacher meetings, such as spats between a cuckolded husband and the teacher who was in charge — or discussions, conducted in front of both a teacher's wife and that teacher's lover, about a student who had become that teacher's mistress. It was not uncommon for divorces to occur, followed by remarriages within the circle of parents and teachers, so that blended families were forced to live together within the school community, with the children of these various matings winding up in the same class. One morning in a Waldorf school where I worked, a colleague confronted another teacher, threatening to smash his face, in front of stunned students, because during the night he had slept with his wife. Another time, at the same school, a teacher chose a parent to be the chaperone of a class trip, a parent who happened to be this teacher's lover; of course, this little matter was the chief topic of conversation among the students on the trip, even though one of the students was the lover's child. Yet another time, a parent of the school who had donated heavily to create a new organization promoting collective decision-making ("sociocracy" or "paths to quality") had an affair with the teacher in charge of this structural reorganization, causing the departure from the school of all his offspring and their cousins when his wife and in-laws learned about it. In citing such situations, I am not advocating rigid marital morality. But in each Steiner workplace I came to know, there was such a tangle of relationships and sexual confusion! All this could perhaps raise a smile, but it is very damaging to the healthy functioning of an institution, especially an institution having an educational mission. Does not such an atmosphere of constantly shifting sexual partners and spouses, in a self-enclosed institution, necessarily create what we might call "psychological inbreeding?" And does not the breakdown of the separation between professional life and family life constitute a kind of intermediate step towards a greatly worrisome situation that may violate important norms when children themselves are involved?

[End of the excerpts]

Also see

"Sexual Mores in Steiner-Waldorf Schools"

In 2014, events at a Waldorf school in the USA reached a stunning culmination. Here is a letter and accompanying document sent by administrators at the school, Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge, New York. [http://www.gmws.org/uploaded/What's_Happening_Now/Green_Meadow_Community_Letter_-_July_2014.pdf]

The school should be commended for apparently responding forthrightly and firmly to what can only be described as a moral crisis among its faculty. The events detailed below indicate, once again, that Roger Graham's misconduct was not wholly unique and may indeed pale by comparison to the sexual misbehavior of at least some other Waldorf teachers in some other Waldorf schools.

As you read, bear in mind that the Green Meadow administrators naturally tried to present their school and its actions in the best possible light. Bear in mind, too, that the actual investigative report has been withheld.

I have appended a few endnotes.

July 8, 2014

Dear Members of the Green Meadow Waldorf School Community:

This letter is very difficult to write and will be very upsetting to read. On August 6, 2013, we informed you about deeply disturbing allegations made by Green Meadow alumna Kate Christensen ‘80 in her recently published memoir, “Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites.” [1] In her memoir, Ms. Christensen wrote that she had been sexually abused at our school by a teacher (referred to as “Tomcat” in the book) on a number of occasions in the late 1970s. We identified the teacher as John Alexandra, who stopped teaching on a full-time basis at Green Meadow in 1979. [2] Upon learning of Ms. Christensen’s allegations, we immediately informed local authorities and barred Mr. Alexandra from our campus and property.

Recognizing that the safety and well-being of our past and present students and faculty is paramount, we also indicated that Green Meadow was beginning a full, independent investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse. We retained Steven Gerber, a former federal prosecutor, a legal expert in this field, and partner of the firm Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan. Mr. Gerber’s firm hired Lisa Friel, a senior executive at T&M Protection Resources (T&M). Ms. Friel is the former Chief of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Sex Crimes Unit, has conducted thousands of sexual misconduct investigations, and is a well-recognized expert on sexual misconduct issues.

I am writing to inform you that Ms. Friel and her team have completed their investigation. Attached to this letter is our summary of T&M’s factual findings, as contained in their investigative report, as well as a summary of their recommendations to better safeguard our students. Many of these recommendations, as you will read, have already been put into place.

T&M was granted unfettered access to interview all relevant witnesses, and to conduct a thorough and comprehensive examination of past and present practices and policies. While this investigation was initiated because of allegations made about John Alexandra, its scope was much broader, and included an examination of allegations of inappropriate conduct or boundaries crossed by any teacher or faculty member here at Green Meadow, and indeed within the larger Threefold Educational Foundation Community (“Threefold”). [3] Ninety-five people were interviewed and thousands of pages of documents were examined. As a result, T&M’s investigative report is highly detailed, extremely thorough, and quite lengthy. The report itself cannot be provided to the Green Meadow community because it contains privileged and confidential information concerning individuals, including the identity of former students and others who provided relevant information on a confidential basis.

One of the purposes of this letter and our summary of critical factual findings and recommendations by T&M is to share with you what we have learned, keeping in mind that we will protect the privacy rights of those who were minors at the time, and those victims and other witnesses who came forward and wish to remain anonymous. We have proceeded very carefully in this regard, balancing the need to fully address and take responsibility for the pain of the victims and past mistakes made at Green Meadow, while recognizing the rights of those who participated in this investigation, as well as those who were accused. Those investigated for sexual misconduct were only named in this report if, according to T&M’s expert analysis, there was substantial evidence to support that conclusion.

Before we address the results of the investigation, we feel it is very important that you, our community, understand that there is another reason that we are writing to you at this time. It is to apologize. To Ms. Christensen and all other victims, we are so sorry for your pain and anguish, including any suffering endured by those close to you. We also apologize to parents, alumni, and all members of the faculty and staff who were impacted by this environment. We cannot undo what has been done in the past, nor can we ever know the full extent of pain that has been caused. We do know that we can disclose what we know now, offer this apology, and do what we can to support healing for all involved. But we offer more than an apology. We pledge to everyone affected and to everyone in our community that we are fully committed to the safety and emotional well-being of our past, present, and future community members. We promise not to waver from this commitment to you.

We also thank everyone who provided information during this investigation, those of you who were victimized as well as those of you who were not, but who possessed relevant information. We understand that in many cases this was very difficult to do and we honor your bravery. And finally, before we share the findings of the investigation, we take this opportunity to acknowledge the courage of Kate Christensen in coming forward as she did, which allowed us to fully acknowledge errors and misjudgments of the past. We will emerge a better, stronger school because of her.

With sincerity,

Eric Silber Jonathan Lynn

Co-Administrator Board President



After becoming aware of Kate Christensen’s memoir in 2013, Green Meadow retained Steven Gerber of Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan with Lisa Friel of T&M Protection Resources (T&M) in order to conduct a thorough and independent investigation. Green Meadow is one of a community of schools and programs affiliated with the Threefold Educational Foundation (“Threefold”). T&M was allowed unrestricted access to past and present Green Meadow faculty and staff, former students, and any other members of the Green Meadow and Threefold communities to whom they wished to speak. The investigation was not limited to allegations concerning John Alexandra. Rather, T&M investigators were mandated to pursue any allegations of inappropriate sexually-related conduct that came to light about any other faculty or staff members. T&M began its investigation in August 2013, concluded it in February 2014, and provided us with a report in May 2014. T&M only identified individuals as victims or offenders if, in their expert opinion, there was substantial evidence to support that conclusion. T&M made specific findings concerning misconduct by certain faculty members at Green Meadow, and also recommended a number of changes in policies at Green Meadow and its affiliated organizations. Green Meadow, through its attorneys and T&M, communicated with the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office regarding findings that fell within that Office’s jurisdiction.

John Alexandra

John Alexandra was a Green Meadow teacher from 1965 until at least 1979. He was a Threefold Board member from at least 1975 through 1983 and has been a long-standing community member, right up until the time Green Meadow learned of these serious allegations. T&M’s investigation has concluded that Mr. Alexandra committed a multitude of crimes, including sexual assault, stalking, harassment, and endangering the welfare of a child, all in violation of the New York State Penal Law. These crimes took place on Threefold property and the surrounding area while in his various capacities as teacher, Board member, and community member. Mr. Alexandra has now been permanently barred from Green Meadow and Threefold property as a result of these findings.

T&M attempted to interview Mr. Alexandra but was advised by his attorney that he had declined the opportunity to be interviewed. Based on T&M’s interviews of victims and witnesses along with other corroborating evidence, the investigation has concluded that Mr. Alexandra sexually assaulted thirteen victims in total. Twelve of the victims were female GMWS students. The students’ ages ranged from 12 to 17 years old, with one victim’s abuse continuing until she graduated at 18. Eleven of the twelve victims were students during the 1970s and early 1980s, and one was a student in 2001. The thirteenth victim, an adult female, was assaulted in 2013.

T&M determined that Mr. Alexandra’s abuse typically started with long, uncomfortable hugs that included inappropriate rubbing and touching, and oftentimes progressed to more egregious criminal conduct, including unwanted sexual intercourse and statutory rape. T&M’s findings were that the incidents involving sexual intercourse took place in the late 1970s and early 1980s. None of his victims wanted to engage in this behavior and all but one were legally incapable of consenting, as they were less than 17 years of age at the time of contact. His conduct also ranged from lesser forms of criminal conduct such as stalking and harassment to other conduct that did not rise to the level of a crime, but was certainly inappropriate under the circumstances, such as long, unsolicited, “uncomfortable” hugs, kisses, and prolonged handshakes.

T&M also determined that Mr. Alexandra stalked or harassed some of these same victims, which also violated New York State Law, by appearing unannounced when they were on walks or alone in their homes. Some victims also received handwritten letters from Mr. Alexandra, of an inappropriately personal nature, both in content and tone. In some cases, this same behavior continued for years after students had left Green Meadow.

Finally, evidence shows it was widely known that Mr. Alexandra would engage openly and often in “hugging” people, primarily women. A number of witnesses shared that they had experienced or witnessed these “hugs,” which have been described as long, forceful, with full frontal body contact and often included Mr. Alexandra rubbing himself inappropriately against them while, in some cases, becoming sexually aroused. Given the evidence uncovered by the investigation, it is clear that what has been described by these witnesses as “hugging” was in many cases a form of sexual abuse.

One of the central conclusions from the independent investigation is that Green Meadow failed to adequately protect its students, faculty, staff, and community members from Mr. Alexandra. Allowing Mr. Alexandra to freely roam Threefold property resulted in giving him essentially unrestricted access to students and faculty members, and thereby enabled him to continue to victimize others. A number of the adults at Green Meadow and Threefold were in a position to have stopped Mr. Alexandra’s inappropriate and sometimes criminal behavior. However they did not do so, either because they were unaware of the breadth of his misconduct, or because they failed to understand the seriousness of what they had been told or had seen.

A number of factors have been identified as contributing to the School’s failure to stop Mr. Alexandra’s inappropriate and at times criminal conduct when it occurred:

• a lack of expertise in what constitutes sexual abuse;

• a failure to investigate or properly investigate facts when brought to faculty members’ attention;

• a reluctance to avoid confronting a person with prominent standing in the community;

• an administrative structure that was not well-suited to dealing with these types of issues;

• a lack of communication between Threefold-affiliated schools and programs;

• a lack of a written policy identifying clear and appropriate boundary lines between faculty and students and a clear protocol for reporting and investigating such reports; and

• a lack of education and training for GMWS students, faculty and staff, and parents regarding identifying and reporting inappropriate conduct.

T&M’s investigation revealed that many of Mr. Alexandra’s victims did not report their victimization to anyone at the time that it occurred. T&M determined there were many reasons why victims did not report Mr. Alexandra’s abusive conduct. All but one of his victims was a child. T&M noted that it is well-known and well-documented that child victims of abuse, especially sexual abuse, rarely report their abuse while they are still children. There are a multitude of reasons for this: their fear they will not be believed, embarrassment, fear they will get in trouble, and sometimes, a lack of understanding as to the true nature of what is being done to them, i.e., that what is happening is in fact sexual abuse. These fears are compounded when the abuser is someone in a position of authority and/or respect in their community. Mr. Alexandra was a prominent member of the community and in a position of authority. Therefore his child victims were even less likely to come forward. In addition, T&M found that there was a feeling among some victims that adults at Green Meadow were complicit in what Mr. Alexandra was doing, since they observed his inappropriate behavior yet encouraged students to maintain a relationship with him. In addition, some victims told T&M that they did not think the adults at Green Meadow would do anything about Mr. Alexandra’s behavior if they complained because some of these adults, the victims believed, were having inappropriate relationships with other students. [4] Finally, T&M concluded that the lack of clear and appropriate boundary lines between students and teachers at Green Meadow contributed to the victims’ failure to report Mr. Alexandra’s inappropriate and sometimes criminal behavior.

Richard Moeschl

Richard Moeschl was a middle school teacher at Green Meadow from 1979 to June 1983. [5] In 1983, Mr. Moeschl sexually assaulted a female middle school student during a school-sponsored trip. T&M’s investigation revealed that this female student’s victimization became known to Green Meadow when Mr. Moeschl admitted to another Green Meadow teacher shortly thereafter what had happened. Mr. Moeschl had already planned to leave Green Meadow at the end of the 1983 school term, having taken a teaching job at a Waldorf School in California, thus Green Meadow did not have to determine if he should be fired. However, there were other steps T&M concluded Green Meadow should have taken.

The investigation concluded that Green Meadow failed to act appropriately when the School became aware of the incident. There was no formal internal investigation conducted, nor were the police contacted. Other than the faculty member to whom Mr. Moeschl admitted his criminal behavior, no other Green Meadow personnel questioned him about this. When contacted by T&M during its investigation, Mr. Moeschl admitted to inappropriate sexual contact with this student and no doubt would have done so at the time. No one from Green Meadow ever spoke to the victim about what happened, nor did anyone determine if she needed counseling. The victim’s parents were not contacted that year in a timely or appropriate fashion and indeed did not become aware of what happened to their daughter until she told them a number of years later in an effort to prevent Green Meadow from allowing Mr. Moeschl back on campus. In short, Green Meadow failed to handle this matter in an appropriate fashion.

Other Findings

Eugene Schwartz was a lower school teacher employed at Green Meadow from 1981 to 2005. [6] T&M’s comprehensive investigation led it to conclude that in 2005, Mr. Schwartz was in possession of child pornography at his residence on Threefold property. The child pornography found in Mr. Schwartz’s possession was viewed by other witnesses and was reported to the administrator at Green Meadow. At the time, there was less than one week left in the school year. Green Meadow assigned another teacher to teach with Mr. Schwartz in his class for that last week of school and to accompany him for all graduation activities. It then severed its professional relationship with him after the term ended.

T&M’s investigation revealed that after the child pornography was discovered at his home, Mr. Schwartz admitted to at least one adult member of the Green Meadow community that he was attracted to young girls and to another that he was a sex addict. T&M also determined that Mr. Schwartz admitted to another witness in the Threefold community that he had a “problem” with child pornography. During the course of its investigation, T&M learned that Mr. Schwartz had taken many photographs of students, including students in swimwear, with at least one provocative photograph of a young female student on Threefold property.

T&M concluded that after Mr. Schwartz was discovered to have possessed child pornography, it was incumbent on the School to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation to determine if he had acted inappropriately with any Green Meadow students or other children in the area. At the time, this was not done. Subsequently, T&M did not find any evidence of inappropriate sexual contact between Mr. Schwartz and any Green Meadow student.

Possession of child pornography is, and was in 2005, both a State and Federal felony offense. However, the law did not require Green Meadow to report Mr. Schwartz’s possession of child pornography to law enforcement. The School at the time sought, and followed, the advice of its then legal counsel as to how and to whom to communicate what they learned about Mr. Schwartz and why he was no longer working at Green Meadow.

Based on the results of T&M’s investigation, Mr. Schwartz has now been permanently barred from Green Meadow and Threefold property.


T&M’s investigation provided Green Meadow with a report card on the School’s conduct spanning over several decades. It was tough, unflinching, and very painful to read. While we cannot go back to the past and undo what was done, we can learn from this and make the necessary changes in order to protect our current and future students, faculty and staff, and members of our community.

As a result of this independent investigation, T&M has made certain recommendations concerning Green Meadow policies regarding sexual harassment and abuse as well as boundary guidelines that it feels should be instituted. They also recommended training for all members of the Green Meadow community (students, faculty and staff, and parents) on these policies, procedures, and boundary guidelines. Green Meadow has taken all of these recommendations very seriously and we have begun implementing them. These recommendations will also be applied across all entities on Threefold property, where appropriate, to ensure the safety and well-being of all communities in addition to Green Meadow students.

From these recommendations, we have already conducted substantial training on sexual harassment, anti-discrimination, and boundary guidelines for all faculty and staff and have implemented a more comprehensive background screening for any adult who comes into contact with Green Meadow students. We are in the final stages of adopting a new written anti-harassment policy and procedure protocols, which will include clear definitions of harassment and abuse, reporting structures and responsibilities, retaliation protection, mandated reporting requirements, and consequences for policy violations, as well as adopting Boundary Guidelines to address appropriate interaction between Green Meadow students and Green Meadow employees. These new policies and guidelines will be aligned with other written Green Meadow policies and will be included in the student handbook and employee policy manual as well as placed on the School website.

We will continue to train faculty and staff as well as provide education for students and parents on these Anti-Harassment Policies and Boundary Guidelines on an annual basis. Additionally, we will be strengthening hiring practices already in place and establishing more formal inter- organizational communication regarding incidents of harassment between all entities on Threefold property. Finally, there will be a clear mechanism for any student, parent, faculty member, or staff member to make an anonymous report to a third party if they feel they are not able to report to someone within the School or Threefold community.

T&M has made all of these recommendations, and we have adopted them, with the unequivocal objective of making Green Meadow Waldorf School the safest, most hospitable learning environment it can possibly be.

[End of the document]


[1] Doubleday Books, 2013; reprint edition: Anchor Books, 2014. Some excerpts from the book appear lower on this page.

[2] From “Waldorf Sex Abuse Probe”, by Mareesa Nicosia, lohud, The Journal News [http://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/rockland/2014/07/21/ex-waldorf-teachers-neighbors-unnerved/12952741/]:

"Investigators hired by Green Meadow identified Alexandra about a year ago as the alleged perpetrator of multiple past offenses ranging from statutory rape to groping, stalking and harassment. He has not been charged with any crime. In a majority of older cases, the statute of limitations for reporting a crime has passed.

“Most of the assaults are alleged to have occurred in the 1970s and '80s, when Alexandra was a high school math teacher, but two others were reported in 2001 and 2013….

“Alexandra is a longtime Rockland resident who previously lived in and was an active member of the Threefold community, the Hungry Hollow Road anthroposophical community affiliated with the school. His wife, Monica, is a former registered nurse and a Waldorf educator; the couple have several adult children."

[3] From the Threefold website [http://www.threefold.org/index.aspx]:

“Located in 140 wooded acres just 30 miles from New York City, the Threefold Educational Center is at the heart of a community of programs and institutions that teach and promote forward-thinking practices in education, agriculture, the arts, spirituality, and social life.

“Our community includes Green Meadow Waldorf School (400 students, grades K-12), the Pfeiffer Center (environmental education, biodynamic agriculture, and organic beekeeping), Eurythmy Spring Valley (movement art), Sunbridge Institute (Waldorf teacher education and adult anthroposophical studies), the Otto Specht School (Waldorf education for children with learning differences), the Fellowship Community (home for the aged), and the Hungry Hollow Co-op Natural Foods Market.”

[4] The victims may have been mistaken about this. But if they were not mistaken, then the situation at the school may have been far worse than is currently known, which would seem to substantiate some of the claims made by Gregoire Perra, both in "He Went to Waldorf" and "Mistreating Kids Lovingly". Perra writes that inappropriate relationships between teachers and students are often common in and around Waldorf schools.

[5] Prior to joining the Green Meadow faculty, Richard Moeschl was a class teacher at a Waldorf school in New Hampshire. [See, e.g., "And Another Day Begins at Pine Hill Waldorf School - https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2209&dat=19760621&id=GaArAAAAIBAJ&sjid=W_wFAAAAIBAJ&pg=5062,3981905&hl=en.] He is the author of EXPLORING THE SKY. [See "Waldorf Curriculum Resources for the Grades and High School, 2005-2006 - http://www.steinercollege.edu/files/pdf/bk/WaldorfCurriculumResourceCatalog(Grades&HS).pdf.] His approach to astronomy is distinctly esoteric. [See, e.g., "Astrology in Ashland Lecture Series: Children of the Sun: Musings on the Winter Solstice with Richard Moeschl" - http://www.rvml.org/wcplus2008/wc200712s.html.]

[6] Eugene Schwartz is a leading proponent of Waldorf education. He has authored such books as MILLENNIAL CHILD (Anthroposophic Press, 1999) and WALDORF EDUCATION - Schools for the Twenty-First Century (Xlibris, 2000). At one time, he headed the Waldorf teacher-training program at Sunbridge College. [See, e.g., "Waldorf Education - For Our Times of Against Them?" - http://www.waldorfcritics.org/articles/schwartz.html.] He hosts the website MiLLENNIAL CHILD - http://millennialchild.com.

Schwartz has maintained his innocence. The following is from "Ex-Waldorf Teachers Sues Over Child Porn Report", by Mareesa Nicosia, lohud, The Journal News [http://www.lohud.com/story/news/education/2014/08/21/waldorf-teacher-sues-child-porn-report/14396333/]:

"A former teacher that the private Green Meadow Waldorf School quietly cut ties with in 2005 after a trove of child pornography was allegedly found in his home is suing his former employer for defamation.

"Eugene Schwartz, 69, claims in a lawsuit that a recent investigation by the school that outed him as a 'sex addict' is libel based on 'unreliable statements' made at the time by his estranged wife.

"Schwartz worked at the Green Meadow school from 1981 until 2005, when the child pornography allegedly surfaced along with a stockpile of other photos of his featuring students in swimwear, according to the school's investigators. At least one 'inappropriate' photo of a young female student was also found, investigators said.

"He has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.

"The eight-page civil suit claims the school published and circulated 'false and defamatory statements' about Schwartz, who went on to become a renowned Waldorf education consultant and traveling lecturer after leaving Green Meadow."

Schwartz's account contradicts the document provided by the school, which says

"The child pornography found in Mr. Schwartz’s possession was viewed by other witnesses ... T&M’s investigation revealed that after the child pornography was discovered at his home, Mr. Schwartz admitted to at least one adult member of the Green Meadow community that he was attracted to young girls and to another that he was a sex addict. T&M also determined that Mr. Schwartz admitted to another witness in the Threefold community that he had a 'problem' with child pornography."

Schwartz's career has, in some senses, prospered despite the scandal. The following is from "Timelines", 8/14/14, ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES [http://www.rocklandtimes.com/2014/08/14/timelines-81414/]:

"A former teacher at the Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge who was released from employment following the discovery of child pornography in his possession and his admitted attraction to underage girls remains within the Waldorf system as a renowned educator.

"Eugene Schwartz, 69, left Green Meadow in 2005 after a 24-year career with the school....

"After the discovery of child pornography in his possession in 2005, Schwartz also allegedly admitted to several adults that he was attracted to young girls.

"Nonetheless, Schwartz remained a prominent voice in the Waldorf education movement since his departure. He has traveled extensively, worked as a consultant and lecturer and authored numerous books and articles. According to fellow educators and parents, he has retained an almost 'rock star' like presence in the movement."

Here are excerpts from Kate Christensen's book, BLUE PLATE SPECIAL (Doubleday, 2013). They indicate that the scandal at Green Meadow was much more widespread than the school's letter, reproduced above, suggests. Indeed, taken in the context of the other materials presented here, the excerpts appear to give evidence that — as Perra indicates — there may be a systemic moral/sexual fault within Waldorf schools generally, a fault related to what Perra calls, mildly, "a confusion of roles."

My math teacher, whose ominously apropos nickname was Tomcat, Tommy for short...was famous for molesting all the teenage girls. He had even gotten one of them pregnant ... [Yet] he went right on being a respected community member and teaching math at Green Meadow and molesting every other girl he could get his mitts on ... He started coming over and taking me on "walks" after dinner, ostensibly to give me guidance and sympathy because I seemed to be having "a difficult time" but in fact to lead me into the deserted fields and rub his hard-on against me while trapping me in his arms as I struggled to break free ... I loathed and feared him ... His rationale for abusing so many girls was that they didn't tell him not to ... It never seemed to occur to him that laws protecting minors from predators like him were in place because we were too young and vulnerable to protect ourselves. He didn't actually rape me, but some of my friends weren't so lucky. — BLUE PLATE SPECIAL, p. 131.


[Eventually] I broke down and told my mother about Tommy. She was horrified and livid and immediately wrote a letter to the school to report him ... [N]othing changed. Later that year, my mother came to visit ... [S]he called Tommy and asked him to come over ... He arrived and sat down, and my mother told him he had to stop molesting me. She was apparently very firm about it and very insistent.

After my mother left, Tommy...came into my bedroom and sat on my bed ... He said, "I want to hear it from you. I don't believe you feel that way."

I mumbled something, terrified, unable to look at him or tell him to stop.

And he kept taking me for walks. — Ibid., pp. 133-134.


During my senior year, Tommy stopped pestering me for the most part ... But he continued pestering one of my friends. She told me he wouldn't stop forcing her to give him hand jobs ... Who could we tell? They were all doing it. Almost everyone in that supposedly spiritually righteous community knew what was going on, but no one said or did anything to stop it; there was never the slightest sense that they thought they were doing anything wrong, having sex with the teenagers they taught, mentored, and hosted. Tommy was far from the only one. One of my other teachers had had a long affair with a former student that had started when he was her teacher; two other male teachers (married, with children) had sex with two sixteen-year-old girls ... It wasn't only the men. A female teacher was involved in a longtime liaison with a recent graduate that had started when he was in high school, another female teacher had slept with a boy in the class above mine. — Ibid., p. 143.


[I]t felt as though the adults around me were falling apart and behaving like adolescents, as if there were no sense of grown-up responsibility or accountability or dignity. But there were notable exceptions to the lack of generational distinctions. Several high school teachers actually managed not to have sex with us. In fact, they behaved as if their job was to teach us. — Ibid., p. 144.


Reed was the only college I applied to. Luckily, they accepted me, and gave me an immense amount of financial aid. But as it turned out, the aid I got was for the wrong year. Evidently, my high school chairman was too busy sleeping with and then running off with a girl in the class below mine, abandoning his pregnant wife and small sons, to realize that the financial aid form he had given me was a year out of date. — Ibid., pp. 146-147.

[End of the excerpts]


I will again add a few comments.

Rudolf Steiner encouraged Waldorf teachers to get deeply involved in the lives of their students. They should stay with their students year after year, he said, plumbing the depths of the children's souls, guiding and supervising the students in myriad ways. Waldorf teachers should be mentors, friends, and compassionate companions for their students.

Steiner encouraged Waldorf teachers and students to love one another. Waldorf students should honor and revere their teachers, accepting them as wise and inspired leaders.* Likewise, Waldorf teachers should tenderly dote on the young souls in their charge, seeing them as pure, lovely spirits recently descended from the spirit realm. And, of course, Steiner told Waldorf teachers to trust their hearts; wisdom comes from the heart, not the head, he taught them. As highly evolved, wise practitioners of Anthroposophy, they will know intuitively, in their hearts and souls, the best path forward.

Placing love at the center of the educational enterprise may seem to be a marvelous idea. Love can be noble and ennobling, bringing out the best in us. Love can inspire us to selfless and magnanimous actions. But, sadly, love can also blind us. Love is often a confusing condition, self-centered, and tightly bound up with lust. Lovers often have difficulty differentiating between sweet love and hot desire (often, indeed, caught up in the powerful swirl of their emotions, lovers don’t bother trying to make such differentiations). The difficulty is all the greater for individuals, such as Anthroposophists, who lack genuine self-knowledge. Anthroposophical teachings about human nature are almost uniformly false, which can cause Anthroposophists to misunderstand themselves and the individuals around them. Consequently, when Anthroposophists are swept up in emotion, the true nature of their feelings almost surely eludes them. Thus, feelings may be misconstrued as wisdom, passions of the loins may be mistaken for promptings of the heart, and sexual predation can result. This is not inevitable in Waldorf schools; it does not happen in all Waldorf schools; but, clearly, it happens far too often in at least some Waldorf schools.

Anthroposophy encourages irrational "intuitive" behavior, and this is one of the appalling results.

— Roger Rawlings

October, 2015

* "It is said that in the first Steiner-Waldorf school, in Stuttgart, Rudolf Steiner often asked the students, ‘Dear children, love your teachers?’ Then he waited for a clamorous 'Yes!', which he always received. Well, see you, that is where the problem lies." — Grégoire Perra, "Mistreating Kids Lovingly".

To consider other troubling situations that

have arisen at other Waldorf schools

— situations that also may reflect systemic

faults in the Waldorf movement —

see, e.g.,





"The Waldorf Scandal"

"Our Experience"

"Coming Undone"

and the various "Ex-Teacher" pages

beginning with "He Went to Waldorf".

Many of these situations are summarized

on the page "Cautionary Tales".

For further coverage of alleged sexual abuse

in Waldorf schools, see the Waldorf Watch News reports

"From France: Charges of

Abuse in Waldorf Schools"


"Charges of Abuse

in Waldorf Schools - II"

both of which were posted in September, 2019.