Witch Hunt
PLANS Inc has repeatedly used allegations of witchcraft and satanism in Waldorf schools to further their cause. Although PLANS knew from the start that such accusations were false, Debra Snell, president of PLANS, said she was "happy" to see these allegations in the news. PLANS then proceeded to use these false claims to apply for funding to support their lawsuit against two California school districts for operating public Waldorf-methods schools, one a charter school and one a magnet school. 

To complete the circle, Dan Dugan, secretary of PLANS, then admitted under oath (during his deposition for the lawsuit) that he does not believe the students are learning witchcraft, nor does he believe that Waldorf education is the "work of satan." At least two Internet search engines have discarded PLANS as a source of information about Waldorf education, because of the prevalence of inaccurate material on the PLANS web site.


On May 16, 1997, the Sacramento Bee reported that a group of twenty "angry parents" and "concerned citizens", had picketed the Oak Ridge Elementary School. The picketing took place after a number of them had read leaflets distributed by PLANS outside the school, protesting that Waldorf methods had been implemented at the school in September 1996.

According to the Sacramento Bee:

"Several pickets said they were 'in the dark' as to what was happening at Oak Ridge until PLANS - People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools - began distributing leaflets outside the school." 

"Marjie Espinoza said she walked the picket line to stand up for five nieces and nephews who attend the school. They and their classmates are being taught satanic beliefs and witchcraft, she said. 'One of the teachers who is against Waldorf showed me some lessons plans,' Espinoza said. 'To me, they were like satanic, witchcraft.' "

Six days later, in an interview published on May 22 in the California Aggie (Davis), Dan Dugan, secretary of PLANS, commented on the independent Waldorf school in Davis:
"They believe that there are spirits behind everything. I know there are people who would call that evil. (They) would consider anthroposophy a satanic religion."
In a discussion on PLANS' anti-Waldorf mailing list, Dan Dugan was asked if PLANS had contacted the Sacramento Bee to correct the allegations of teaching witchcraft at the Oak Ridge school. On May 26, 1997, PLANS president Debra Snell responded that while allegations of witchcraft were not part of PLANS' agenda, she had done nothing to correct them, and she was "happy" that they were made in the media.

Debra Snell: 

"We did not phone the Sacramento Bee to dispute Sac. City Unified School Officials statement that PLANS claims is based on rumor either..."

"Anyone who knows PLANS' claims, knows that witchcraft has not been our handle." 

[But] "We're frankly happy to see the issue in the news, and it has certainly been there lately."

On June 10, 1997, the Sacramento Bee commented on PLANS' anti-Waldorf campaign in an editorial titled "The Attack on Oak Ridge"
" ... in recent weeks, at the urging of a Bay Area-based group called People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS) and a few disgruntled teachers, a protest movement has brewed among a number of parents, marked by picketing and a boycott that kept a third of the student body out of school for parts of last week. PLANS suggests that Waldorf methods involve the teaching of witchcraft ...

… with a parent population that includes many recent Hmong and Mien immigrants who don't speak English well, PLANS has found fertile ground in which to plant the seed of paranoia. ... What's important now is to counter the misinformation campaign ..."

After the false allegations had appeared in the media, PLANS proceeded to use the same allegations to apply for and receive $15,000 from a right wing Christian organization, Alliance Defense League. This grant has been used to partially finance the litigation against the two local school districts for "promoting religion".

Formally, the application for the funding was made on PLANS' behalf by a right wing law firm, PJI (Pacific Justice Institute), which usually fights -- somewhat ironically -- to abolish the constitutional separation between church and state and supports the distribution of Christian literature in public buildings.

When criticized by a supporter for the way PLANS was trying to get support from Christian fundamentalists by using the alleged connection between anthroposophy (the philosophical basis of Waldorf education), wicca and satanism, Dan Dugan offered this defense on his mailing list on June 9, 1997:

"What I say 'in defense of the Waldorfians' is that 'they don't eat babies.' "

"Am I pandering to the prejudices of Christians? Personally, yes I am!"

Thus financed using the media reports of witchcraft at the school, PLANS in February 1998 then filed litigation against two public school districts in California, to make them stop their operation of Waldorf-methods charter schools.


Question to Mr. Dugan: 

"Is it your belief that students at John Morse (public school) are learning witchcraft?"
Mr. Dugan: 
Question to Mr. Dugan: 
"Is it your belief that students at Yuba River (public school) are learning witchcraft?"
Mr. Dugan: 
Question to Mr. Dugan: 
"It’s not your belief that Waldorf (Education) is the work of Satan?"
Mr. Dugan:
"I do not believe that Waldorf is the work of Satan."
(Source: Sworn deposition by Mr. Dugan in the case of "PLANS vs Sacramento Unified School District and Twin Ridges School District" lawsuit, Volume II, April 1, 1999, pp. 160 and 163.)

We were unable to determine if the Alliance Defense League has been informed about Mr. Dugan's testimony and has asked for a repayment of their funding of the litigation. The grant request for funding used these allegations as part of its basis for the litigation, so a request for repayment would not be unreasonable.

The secretary of PLANS admitted during depositions that he did not think that "Waldorf is the work of Satan", but the president of PLANS, Debra Snell, has continued to promote these false claims.

In 2000, in a discussion on the anti-Waldorf mailing list, Waldorf Critics, she defended an allegation similar to the one spread in 1997 (in spite of her earlier statement that "witchcraft has not been our handle"), this time that witchcraft is practiced at Waldorf schools by Waldorf teachers performing voodoo on the wool dolls made by the children.

Debra Snell's defense, when this obvious nonsense was criticized, was to describe the questioner as a member of "the cover-up committee", and to imply that practicing voodoo was part of anthroposophy (see also here).

PLANS, according to Dan Dugan, had 44 members at the end of 2000. This is odd, because the bylaws of PLANS Inc. state that PLANS shall have no members. The persons referred to mostly seem to be people who had given PLANS at least $15 during the year. More of PLANS' myths about Waldorf education can be found here.


In 2001, a meta editor at the large search portal DMOZ, Open Directory Project, decided, after reviewing the PLANS web site, to remove it from the "Waldorf theory" category at DMOZ. PLANS simply did not qualify as an informational site on Waldorf education as judged by the standards of DMOZ.

Similar judgments of the site have apparently been made by two of the major search engines on the net; Google and Altavista. Both of them have dropped PLANS as an "informational" source on Waldorf education and anthroposophy.

In 2002, Google removed the PLANS site from the "Waldorf organizations" category in its web directory, and Google AdWords canceled an ad from the group.

In 2003, Altavista, after a similar review of the PLANS site, decided to take the drastic step of removing all direct links from its web index. It also notified Overture.com that it did not want to publish the sponsored ads it provided for PLANS. 

Overture, notified that Altavista was unwilling to publish these ads, stopped publishing them but then started again when PLANS signed up once more for them. At this point the legal office of Altavista simply refused all ads from Overture for searches on "waldorf", "waldorf education", and "Rudolf Steiner", regardless of their origin, to get rid of the ads for PLANS.

The PLANS site has started to turn up at Altavista again due to the automatic indexing process, but Altavista is not accepting ads from Overture for the searches mentioned above.

As of February 2005, Overture has quit publishing ads for the group.