(9) The Meeting: English Ignores Doctor and Issues Ultimatum

(Mr. Josephson came to the meeting with Ms. English dedicated to a collaborative process that would meet all the needs of Archer without causing undue harm to C1. Ms English did not even consider the report of C1’s therapist and came to the meeting intending to make it clear that “I don’t negotiate with parents.”)

As Ms. English doubtless intended, Mr. Josephson was frustrated and upset by her intransigence and the games she played before the meeting. He said he felt he had been lured to the meeting under false pretenses and that Ms. English’s misleading and ambiguous communications caused him to waste time preparing arguments and alternatives. If she had no intent to engage in a true effort to find a solution that would meet the needs of Archer and C1’s parents. . . . Ms. English invented rules, used intimidating threats to coerce surrender (e.g., that she would suspend C1 and report it to Barnard, the college that granted C1 early admission), imposed unauthorized forms of suspension, and, in asserting her claim to complete discretion, forced C1 and her parents to make an unreasonable and unfair choice.

Mr. Josephson arrived at Archer about 45 minutes before the scheduled meeting with Ms. English to deliver to Ms. English’s assistant copies of Dr. Esparce’s report so that Ms. English and Ms. Coyne could review it before the meeting.

Mr. Lord assumed the position of leading the meeting and asked Mr. Josephson for permission to tape record it. Mr. Josephson agreed.[8] Mr. Lord conducted himself throughout this meeting as if it were a deposition. He continually interrupted Mr. Josephson, rebuked him when he thought he was getting too passionate and gave guidance to Ms. English as to whether she should answer certain questions posed by Mr. Josephson, who was trying to treat the meeting as a dialogue.

Mr. Lord asked what it was that Mr. Josephson wanted. Mr. Josephson said his goal was to achieve the three objectives outlined in Ms. English’s January 12 letter by formulating a mutually acceptable process that provided an opportunity for C1 to 1) demonstrate that she has engaged in meaningful self-reflection concerning her behavior in December and, 2) taken responsibility for her actions and their impact on her teachers and classmates and 3) to present to Ms. English a clearly articulated plan and strategies to help C1 monitor and control her emotions so that she conducts herself in a way that is fundamentally respectful and in line with Archer’s Honor Code.

Mr. Josephson pointed out that Dr. Escarce had suggested several alternatives that would achieve these goals in her letter but that he was willing to discuss and devise any other process that would achieve Ms. English’s goals for C1.

Mr. Josephson also pointed out that the student judicial process had a similar goal – “A critical goal of the HEC is for a student to take responsibility for her actions and acknowledge her mistakes, as this is an essential part of the learning process.” –Archer Handbook). Mr. Josephson also reminded Ms. English and Ms. Coyne that: 1)  C1 had already accepted accountability for her actions and sought to make amends and 2) the student judicial process  was not designed as a sanction itself but merely one way to determine whether and how the student should be sanctioned. Clearly in C1’s mind, as verified by her therapist, the process was a punishment – a gigantic, disproportionate punishment.

Finally, he stressed that both he and Anne Josephson were not seeking to deter the school from holding C1 accountable. Instead they wanted to do so in the collaborative tradition of Archer and avoid unnecessary and unconstructive pain.

Mr. Josephson then asked Ms. English what her goals were.

He was dumbfounded when she said her goal was to make it clear to Mr. Josephson that her decision was final, that she expected all parents to support her decisions, that lots of girls have an aversion to the judicial process, but it always turns out to be a positive experience and that, despite the fears of C1 and her parents (and in direct opposition to the professional opinion of Dr. Escarce), she was confident this would be a good and constructive experience for C1.

She concluded that C1 will either comply with her decision or she will be suspended until she did. Of course, Ms. English added, she could withdraw from Archer.

As Ms. English doubtless intended, Mr. Josephson was frustrated and upset by her intransigence and the games she played before the meeting. He said he felt he had been lured to the meeting under false pretenses and that Ms. English’s misleading and ambiguous communications caused him to waste time preparing arguments and alternatives. If she had no intent to engage in a true effort to find a solution that would meet the needs of Archer and C1’s parents, then she just should have said so in the email to save everyone time.

The Unfair Ultimatum

Ms. English presented one other alternative previously mentioned by Ms. Coyne: Ms. English would allow C1 to take a medical leave (despite knowing that her parents and therapist said this was unnecessary and would itself be detrimental). This option would keep her out of school unless and until she was ready to comply with Ms. English’s edict concerning the student hearing.

Though there is no basis for this in the rules or principles of constructive discipline, Ms. English invented the requirement that during the forced medical leave C1 could submit course work to finish her required courses, but that she would receive no instruction nor would she be permitted on campus for classes, conferences with teachers, or to participate in school activities. She was told that even if she completed the assignments and received passing grades she would not be permitted to participate in graduation services; rather, she said, she would receive her diploma by mail.

In summary, Ms. English invented rules, used intimidating threats to coerce surrender (e.g., that she would suspend C1 and report it to Barnard, the college that granted C1 early admission), imposed unauthorized forms of suspension, and, in asserting her claim to complete discretion, forced C1 and her parents to make an unreasonable and unfair choice: consent to be subjected to a poorly designed student hearing process her therapist said could cause severe and lasting emotional harm, or accept a medical leave under unnecessarily oppressive conditions forbidding her to meet with her teachers, come on campus, participate in any school activities, or participate in graduation ceremonies.

[8] It is very important to note that the meeting was tape recorded. We hope the Board is given the opportunity to hear the entire meeting, or at least, read a transcript. Ms. English contends that Mr. Josephson’s conduct at the meeting, combined with a personal email he wrote after the meeting to two teachers especially close to C1, justify removing C2 from the school, and repeated defamatory claims about Mr. Josephson’s conduct. No objective reviewer will agree with this assessment.

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