PLANS Inc issued a press
release on September 14, 2005 claiming a key witness, Dr. Crystal Olson,
had been erroneously and prejudicially excluded from testimony by Federal
District Judge Frank C. Damrell:
"... Dr. Crystal Olson, a [Rudolf] Steiner
College staffer who teaches courses on music education--had been listed
as [one of the] expert witnesses by the defendant school districts, and
as percipient witnesses by PLANS. In fact, PLANS' attorney, Scott Kendall,
had taken lengthy depositions from the two in 1999."
Judge Damrell accepted Defendants' objection to this
witness on the grounds that PLANS had not properly disclosed Dr. Olson
(and another witness, Betty Staley), according to court Rule 26a requiring
"automatic disclosure", i.e. to disclose all witnesses and evidence immediately,
without being asked.
According to the trial
transcript, Plaintiff attorney Scott Kendall admitted that, without
the inclusion of the two witnesses, PLANS would not be able to prove that
anthroposophy is a religion:
"The only witnesses that we would have
been able to offer with regard to this question of anthroposophy -- I worked
on alternative ways of doing it -- would be Betty Staley, who we think
is a material, relevant, [percipient] witness, and Dr. Olson. You've excluded
both of those on the grounds I did not disclose them. I don't think that's
the case, but that is the Court's order. Without those witnesses, I don't
believe we'll be able to sustain our burden of proof."
Thus, the Plaintiff's argument for the crucial first
question of the case, whether anthroposophy is a religion, rested in part
on the testimony of Dr. Crystal Olson. Again from the transcript, Mr. Kendall
"Those witnesses are absolutely critical,
and given the Court's position with regard to that, we had alternatives
we were working with to try to put the evidence before the Court, but I
don't believe it's possible to do it and would be wasting the Court's time
to do it without those witnesses."
Mr. Kendall then argues that rather than rely on experts
who might render an expert opinion,
"What the Court must do in order to determine
the issue of whether something is a religion, the Court has to look
beyond expert opinion and has to look to the actual evidence, the underlying
evidence and make the call. We agree with that position, which is why we
decided to go with Betty Staley and Dr. Olson ..." (emphasis added)
So who is Dr. Olson? Can she provide percipient testimony,
from her direct experience, that anthroposophy is a religion?
PLANS claims that Dr. Olson is a staff member of
the Rudolf Steiner
College who teaches courses on music education.
But that is in dispute.
Letter from Rudolf Steiner College, September
FROM: Arline Monks, Rudolf Steiner
Email Arline Monks at steinercollege.edu
SUBJECT: WHO IS CRYSTAL OLSON?
September 18, 2005
Contrary to a statement in the PLANS press release,
Olson is not a Rudolf Steiner College staffer, and does not teach music
at RSC. She has taught only one class at RSC—a class given more than
six years ago on the History of U.S. Public Education for a summer session
of the RSC Master of Arts in Education program.
Crystal Olson, Ed. D., is Assistant Professor
of Education at California State University Sacramento, where she has been
teaching for the past twelve years. Prior to this time, she served as the
Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the Sacramento County Office
During her years as a member of the CSUS Teacher
Education faculty, she has been publicly commended by the CSUS College
of Education for bridging public education and Waldorf education. She has
made opportunities available to CSUS students to experience Waldorf approaches,
particularly the integration of the arts in the academic curriculum. Dr.
Olson co-directs a CSUS Master of Arts in Education in Curriculum and Instruction
for which the RSC summer institute, The Waldorf Approach Applied in
the Public School Classroom, has been a recommended elective for six
In regard to the PLANS lawsuit against the two
school districts, Dr. Olson was deposed as a defense witness, but
then later removed from the witness list. She has no knowledge of anthroposophy
and could never be considered an expert witness on that subject.
We demand retraction of the erroneous statement
in the PLANS press release, and in all other subsequent communications,
regarding Dr. Olson, with acknowledgment of the erroneous nature of the
information previously presented.