Elizabeth English Maliciously Ejects Other Josephson Daughter to Prove Power

The straw that broke the camel’s back

(As upset as the Josephsons were with Ms. English’s conduct and decisions, they complied. But Ms. English wasn’t satisfied with imposing her vindictive will on C1 and Mr. Josephson. Instead, she escalated the controversy to an intolerable level by using Mr. Josephson’s legal and respectful efforts on behalf of C1 to oust the Josephsons’ youngest daughter from Archer based on her conclusion that the Josephsons should no longer be part of the Archer community.)

C2, is a 15 year-old 10th grader still adjusting to her classmates and teachers reactions to her decision to be open about her sexual orientation. And at the time encompassed in these allegations she was struggling with tumultuous domestic events, including C1’s growing conflict with the school. She was also in the midst of dealing with the impending death of her best friend’s dad, a man she was very close to. He was dying a slow and painful death from Lou Gehrig’s disease. She visited virtually every day for a month. And, not surprisingly, weighed down by these burdens, she was struggling academically.

Anne Josephson had made Ms. English aware of these facts and her fragile emotional state (a fact she reiterated in a letter reproduced below to Ms. English reacting to the decision for terminate her right to complete her education at Archer). Thus, this was her known mental and emotional state when Ms. English decided to ignore a wide range of much less drastic alternatives in favor of a decision to not allow C2 to complete her education at Archer. Thus, she could have had no doubt that this discretionary decision (one more that she made under her claim of unbridled power granted her by the BOT) would inflict intense and lasting emotional pain on C2 and her parents.Archer - vindictive and spiteful

Anne and Michael Josephson suspected and feared that Ms. English might seek to punish Mr. Josephson further by invoking her discretion to remove C2 from the school. When Mr. Josephson raised the issue in his meeting with Ms. English, she clearly reserved the right to do so and conveyed the message that she might if he continued to resist her authority.

In a meeting instigated by Board members Barbara Bruser and Cathy Helm to discuss her continuing role on the BOT in light of the controversy involving C1 and Mr. Josephson, Anne explicitly raised the issue. Both board members expressed shock that she thought C2’s position in school was endangered and assured her there was no reason for concern as the two situations were entirely separate.

Anne’s comfort on the issue was disturbed some days later when she got a message from Ms. English requesting a meeting to discuss C2’s status. She called Cathy Helm who confirmed her fears – C2 would not be offered a contract for the following year because of Mr. Josephson’s conduct (always unspecified as to what he supposedly did to justify this action). Asked why she had received assurances just days earlier that this would never happen Cathy Helm said “Michael’s conduct was beyond the pale” (again with no reference to any specifics). Most significantly she reminded Anne of the confrontation in 2010 (it was actually in November 2009).

This conversation makes it absolutely clear that Cathy Helm was aware of and likely participated in the decision to exclude C2 and that Ms. English’s decision was linked to the incident she precipitated more than four years prior.

 Two issues:

In reviewing the evidence and arguments concerning Ms. English’s conduct regarding C2, it is important to keep in mind there are two distinct issues (and two contexts in which Ms. English acted outrageously):

1)  The decision to exclude C1 based on Ms. English’s assessment of Mr. Josephson’s conduct and its impact on the family-school relationship

2)  Whether C1 and her parents had a right to guidelines as to the criteria used by Ms. English while C2 finished out her last semester at Archer.

Ms. English’s decision to not offer C2 a contract in the future (thereby terminating her relationship with Archer). In this context we contend:

1) Ms. English could not properly exclude a student from school because of the perceived misconduct of only one parent, especially when the other parent, even by Ms. English’s standards, was an exemplary member of the Archer community. (Remember, it was Ms. English who recruited Anne for the Board.)

2) One cannot support the claim that the family-school relationship was irreparably damaged without solid evidence of sincere efforts to repair the relationship

3) One cannot support a claim that the family school relationship was irreparably damaged without specific evidence of what was damaged and how it affects the school.

4) No rational or fair system would allow terminating enrollment rights of an innocent student without a fair process including an impartial decision making body, and a right for those most affected to participate and tell their side of the story.

5) Even if Ms. English has the power to unilaterally decide when parental conduct is so outrageous that it justifies excluding a child from the school there is enough evidence in this case to support our claim that Ms. English’s conclusion was arbitrary and capricious and based on malicious motives

The evidence

The following correspondence provides a compelling case that Ms. English acted maliciously and vindictively in removing C2 from the school without any prior notice or attempt to find collaborative solutions. It shows her claim that Mr. Josephson’s conduct irreparably damaged the relationship between the Josephson family and the school is not valid because, among other things no effort was made by Ms. English to repair what she claimed was broken. It demonstrates a total inability to support her defamatory allegations about Mr. Josephson’s conduct and it unequivocally demonstrates her arbitrariness in her refusal to give any guidelines to Mr. Josephson re: future behavior.

This letter is the formal confirmation of what Cathy Helm told Anne, that Mr. Josephson’s unspecified conduct was used as the reason to refuse to offer C2 the right to continue at Archer. Since Ms. English mentions the behavior in the meeting (which she never before complained of) and in the two emails we urge the BOT to listen to the tape or get a transcript of the meeting and we have included the two emails below and Mr. Josephson’s response.

Feb 7, 2014

Dear Anne,

I asked Maria to set up a meeting with you because I wanted to inform you in person that the School has decided that it will not offer your family a re-enrollment contract for C2.  I truly regret that C2 cannot stay at Archer, but it is an unfortunate consequence of Michael’s conduct.  

The School does not just enroll a child, it enrolls a family that becomes part of the school community.  In this case the issue was not with the student but with a parent.  You were copied on and forwarded several emails from Michael in which he demonstrated his unwillingness to support the School and its policies and to cooperate with and act civilly toward members of the Archer community.  

His opposition was also firmly established in a meeting with Samantha Coyne, Scott Lord, and me. As a result of Michael’s conduct, the relationship between the family and the School has been irreparably harmed and the School cannot offer re-enrollment.  This is a particularly tough decision for the School because of your family’s long-standing relationship with Archer as well as your service to the Board, but we must adhere to the same standards that we would with any other family.

Elizabeth

——————–

Feb 7, 2014 at 10:07 AM From: MSJ To: Elizabeth English

Dear Elizabeth,

Anne has forwarded me your recent letter indicating your decision to not allow C2 to continue at Archer as “a result” of my conduct which you said irreparably harmed the relationship between the family and the school. The basis of your decision is my “conduct” during our meeting and the letters I sent Brian Wogensen and Andrea Locke. 

I must suppose you considered my words or actions severely egregious to justify your imposition of this enormous penalty on an innocent 15 year old. You took this action knowing that she will be forcibly separated from her friends and teachers and, despite Anne’s clearly stated concern that your refusal to let C2 return to Archer next semester would subject her to enormous trauma as an openly gay girl with no friends or contacts. And though it seems there was no urgency for this communication, you chose to convey the information at a time when you knew C2 is truly suffering with {the death of her best friend’s father]. 

Since every child’s enrollment depends on your sensitivities and interpretation of what is or is not acceptable disagreement and discussion it seems only fair that you provide guidance as to how you will exercise your discretion. In that context, I do not think you can justify your conclusions that I was “unwilling to support the School and its policies and to cooperate with and act civilly toward members of the Archer community.”

Even if we assume this is a legitimate test of irreparable harm to the Archer-parent relationship, I respectfully submit there is nothing that occurred during our meeting and nothing that was said in my letters to justify your conclusion. 

 I have listened to the tape of the meeting several times and I am having a transcript made. I do not think there is a single thing you can point to in content or tone that was uncivil. There were no obscenities, vile accusations, yelling or threats. Please identify for me any part of that meeting that qualifies as incivility so egregious as to justify your punitive action. Respectfully, if you cannot do so I think it is clear that you erroneously characterized my conduct.

Is it possible that the mere act of disagreeing with you and/or challenging your reasoning is grounds to disenroll my daughter? If this is the case, I think you are obligated to put that in the Handbook as no one could rationally believe that anything short of passive compliance is permitted.

 Similarly what evidence is there that I demonstrated an unwillingness to abide by your rules and policies?

In fact, though I disagreed with the results and reasoning for your decision to force C1 to participate in the student honor council process I did so respectfully and never refused to comply with your interpretation of the school policies. To the contrary, the entire last portion of the discussion was about how we might make it easier for C1 to minimize the trauma of participating in the process.

Similarly, though I disagreed with your decision that C1 would not be allowed on campus unless and until she participated in the student hearing, I complied with this decision as well. We did not send C1 to school and we continued to explore with her therapist the possibility of preparing for the hearing. You will recall I sent several follow-up emails suggesting possibilities, including allowing a parent or C1’s therapist to be with her. You rejected every proposal and reiterated your refusal to meet with the therapist so she could help you understand the enormous risk you were demanding her to take and to explore less traumatic alternatives.

I continued to comply with your interpretation of school policy re: the medical leave. C1 did not go to school and complied with your edict that she could not seek any help from her teachers (we were told to hire private tutors – which we did).

As to the letters to Brian and Andrea – two faculty members that I have a personal relationship with and who have played a major role in the lives of several of my daughters – what is the nature of your objection? Throughout our time at Archer I frequently have communicated directly with faculty members on a wide range of topics. Are you saying I violated a school policy by writing them?

Are you saying I violated a school policy by discussing C1’s situation with them, that I had no right to discuss my perceptions and frustrations with friends at the school?

 Is there anything in my description that is untrue? Again, there was nothing the least bit uncivil about that those communications, let alone something serious enough to justify banning my daughter from Archer.

Since your description of my conduct is simply not supported by the facts, will you consider reversing it? Otherwise I don’t think you can escape the implication that your accusations concerning my conduct are simply a pretext to express your dislike for me and my refusal to passively surrender to your will by punishing my children.

 Michael S. Josephson

Here are the letters Ms. English used as the basis of her conclusion that C2 must be removed from the school. Please examine in reference to Mr. Josephson’s comments to Ms. English in the above letter.

From: MSJ to Brian Wogensen 

Dear Brian,

I want to thank you so very much for being so supportive of C1 during this, the most difficult time of her life. She is putting up a very brave front and I have high hopes she will come through this stronger, but it’s hard to tell. There is no question that she will always have a deep scar from the trauma of being denied the opportunity to spend her last semester with the friends and teachers she really came to love. No senior prom, no graduation picture, no graduation party – it’s unfathomable.

I don’t know what you are being told, but the fact is that C1 was forced by Ms. English, over the express advice and warnings of her therapist and the ardent pleas of Anne and me, to take a medical leave or be suspended with the explicit comment that a suspension would be sent to Barnard and might jeopardize her admission. C1 wanted to be in school and was ready to be in school (in fact she came to school Monday of last week and was sent home by Ms. Warner without any notification to Anne or I). Ms. English said she was effectively banned from campus unless and until she subjected herself to a process that C1 (rationally or not) sincerely believed would be totally humiliating. The fact that she would choose not to be with and graduate with her class is compelling evidence of how much she dreaded the process (information presented to Ms English by C1’s therapist but ignored).

C1, with our consent, decided to withdraw from Archer because the idea of receiving her diploma by mail (Ms. English’s explicit words) was too painful and staying within the range of power of this administration just seemed unwise. We have found an alternative to allow her to get the credits she needs to earn her diploma. It costs about $20,000 but we had little choice and C1 is enthused about the alternative.

I am beside myself that this became a power struggle instead of a legitimate attempt to determine how to best deal with C1’s occasional outbursts of disrespect (which we never defended and she already apologized for).  Sorry to burden you with this but I think there has been a lot of misinformation out there and good friends like you are hard to find.

Anyway, I am so grateful for you true love and loyalty. It has meant a HUGE amount to C1.

Michael S. Josephson

__________

Thursday, January 23, 2014 11:18 AM From: MSJ to Andrea Locke

Dear Andrea,

I want to thank you so very much for being so supportive of C1 during this, the most difficult time of her life. She is putting up a very brave front and I have high hopes she will come through this stronger, but it’s hard to tell. There is no question that she will always have a deep scar from the trauma of being denied the opportunity to spend her last semester with the friends and teachers she really came to love, especially you. And she is devastated that she will not be able to dance with you and the other girls. Add to that: no senior prom, no graduation picture, no graduation party – it’s unfathomable!

I don’t know what you are being told, but the fact is that C1 was forced by Ms. English (over the express advice and warnings of her therapist and the ardent pleas of Anne and me), to take a medical leave or be suspended with the explicit comment that a suspension would be sent to Barnard and might jeopardize her admission. C1 wanted to be in school and was ready to be in school (in fact she came to school Monday of last week and was sent home by Ms. Warner without any notification to Anne or I). Ms. English said she was effectively banned from campus unless and until she subjected herself to a process that C1 (rationally or not) sincerely believed would be totally humiliating. The fact that she would choose not to be with and graduate with her class is compelling evidence of how much she dreaded the process (information presented to Ms English by C1’s therapist but ignored).

C1, with our consent, decided to withdraw from Archer because the idea of receiving her diploma by mail (Ms. English’s explicit words) was too painful and staying within the range of power of this administration just seemed unwise. We have found an alternative to allow her to get the credits she needs to earn her diploma. It costs about $20,000 but we had little choice and C1 is enthused about the alternative.

I am beside myself that this became a power struggle instead of a legitimate attempt to determine how to best deal with C1’s occasional outbursts of disrespect (which we never defended and she already apologized for).  Sorry to burden you with this but I think there has been a lot of misinformation out there and good friends like you are hard to find.

Anyway, I am so grateful for your true love and loyalty. It has meant a HUGE amount to C1. Please continue to find ways that you and the other girls can show her your love.

Sincerely,

Michael

Michael S. Josephson

Though Ms. English knows she has thrown the entire Josephson family into crisis and that they legitimately fear that she will strike again with arbitrary and unannounced criteria, Ms. English’s answer is arrogant and deliberately nonresponsive. Even when she administers an academic and socials death blow to children she feels no need to explain or justify her action.

Monday February 10, 2014 8:54 AM

Dear Michael,

Your pattern of conduct is clear from your communication with the School.  The decision is final and thus further discussion would not be constructive.  Please contact Samantha Coyne for any assistance you might need with C2’s transition.

Elizabeth

__________________

Still trying to decide whether it is wise or safe to send C2 back to school where she will effectively be a hostage of Ms. English’s whims, Anne tries to get assurances or information from her friend Ms. Coyne. The response below, most certainly dictated by Ms. English is clearly designed to intimidate rather than inform.

Please read the following letter with particular care. Every sentence provides valuable information as to the harm already caused, the request for assurances that C2’s last months at Archer would not be under the cloud of further arbitrary punitive actions by Ms. English, and the effort to seek less drastic ways to deal with “Michael’s conduct.”

 Thursday, February 13, 2014 From: Anne Josephson To: Ms Coyne

Dear Samantha,

Elizabeth asked that all communication regarding C2 be directed to you.

As I am sure you know, C2 is not being offered a contract for next school year.  We broke the news to her on Tuesday evening, and C2 is absolutely devastated.   Despite her typical adolescent grumblings about school, Archer has been her home since the 6th grade and she has formed meaningful and important relationships with faculty and students.  Her contributions to the school through theater and GSA are core to who she is as a person.  To have this all taken away from her not as her own decision or through any fault of her own is nothing short of traumatic.

C2 is not in school today and likely will not attend tomorrow either as we are working with her psychiatrist to help her through this as well as her physician (she is suffering from migraines, probably as a result of stress).  

Additionally, we are exploring what her options are for next year.  A feat that is not terribly easy given the number of spaces in 11th grade, that application deadlines have passed, the sensitivity to choosing a school that will protect a gay child and a school that fits C2’s strengths and interests.

Furthermore, before I can comfortably send C2 back to school, I need assurance that C2’s educational needs will be attended to with the same vigor and respect that any child’s needs are that attends the school.   She needs support in catching up on her school work given the trauma of Neil’s death, and her College Board decision needs to be appealed.  Catie Chase has been superb in helping C2, and I am so very grateful for her efforts.

Moreover, I need to be reassured that whatever the ill will generated between Michael and Elizabeth and their on-going communications regarding their disagreements will not be taken out on C2.  It is bad enough that adult conflict has forced C2 out of her school for next year, but the thought that she would suffer any further humiliation by being removed mid-year is not a risk I can take with my daughter.

Can I please have your assurance that this is not a possibility – that the school will keep C2’s enrollment for this semester completely separate from any actions or communications concerning C1?

If you cannot provide such assurance, can you give me some guidelines as to what sorts of communications could result in action against C2 so I can consult with Michael to see if he is willing to accommodate these guidelines?

While C2’s opportunity to graduate with her class is gone, I want C2 to at least have chance to finish her sophomore year with her friends.  Without assurances or at least guidelines, I don’t know how to proceed.

Samantha, assuming good faith is always my first instinct.  And I am trying hard to continue to do so.  But I am stepping forward to address these issues as it seems that no one is considering C2 as a stakeholder (who is caught in the crossfire of conflict that should have been limited to the adults) and because of my deep disappointment in what is clearly a disregard for her needs or how this decision impacts her.

I am hopeful that the positive, collaborative and supportive relationship that I have enjoyed until recently can be reinstated for the sake of C2.

Please feel free to share this email with whomever needs to make these decisions.   I do ask that you remove any references to C2’s psychological and physical health concerns so as not to violate her privacy. 

Thanks, Sam. 

Best, Anne

In the following letter from Mr. Josephson to Ms. English you will see not only a reiteration of Anne’s concerns but a willingness to try to accommodate Ms. English to protect C2. Note again the reasonable and explicit request for guidelines. Please read this letter with equal care

Friday, February 14, 2014 3:23 PM From: MSJ to: Elizabeth English

Dear Elizabeth,

I’ve seen Anne’s email to Samantha about C2.

I echo her concern that the trauma C2 has already suffered will be compounded by the fear that at any time she might be removed from school because of something I do or say that I think is right and reasonable but you don’t.

I join in Anne’s request for assurances that any further communications or actions I take in pursuit of my grievance with the way you handled C1’s situation will not affect C2’s ability to complete her semester at Archer without hindrance or harassment. C2 is completely innocent in all this and is entitled to this assurance.

If you are unwilling to provide us with such assurances, I still hope to find a basis of accommodation.

You well know, I don’t agree you had a right to punish and exclude my children for my efforts to induce you to adopt alternative ways to accomplish Archer goals (a position I sincerely believe I have always advanced with civility and propriety). Still, I am a realist and it is clear that this is a prerogative you have and could again exercise.

I wonder if you can understand my frustration that you never provided guidance, notice or opportunity to me to learn of and react to your view that my communications in our meeting and my two emails (to faculty people I know well) constituted a breach of your standards of proper parental behavior great enough to prevent C2 from coming to school. Without guidance I feel I am in the midst of Franz Kafka’s classic novel, The Trial.

Nevertheless, I acknowledge your de facto power and unless and until I can get a neutral authority to limit your exercise of discretion, the only way I can protect my family from further injury is to submit to your definition of propriety.

Though I am continuing my creative search for options that protect and advance both C1’s and C2’s best interests without causing undue harm to Archer, an institution, despite our personal differences, I respect and support, I am willing to consider postponing, modifying or even abandoning some options I have if it would guarantee a peaceful and secure completion of her school year.  

C2’s well-being is my highest priority.

Please give me some guidelines as to the criteria you will use in determining whether anything I say or do would justify actions against C2.

As Anne said, without assurances that you will keep the two matters separate or guidelines we cannot safely send C2 back to school. This would amount to another constructive expulsion that would damage a student without any compelling offsetting institutional purpose or advantage.

Please let us know as soon as possible so we can prepare C2 to return to school on Tuesday.

Sincerely,

Michael S. Josephson

Instead of answering, Ms. English simply sent Mr. Josephson a copy of Ms. Coyne’s unhelpful letter.

_________

February 14, 2014 3:58 PM From: Elizabeth English To: MSJ

Michael,

Here is the email from Samantha to Anne. All the best, Elizabeth

———- Forwarded message ———-

Fri, Feb 14, 2014 at 3:36 PM

From: Samantha Coyne To: Anne Josephson

Dear Anne,

Thank you for your email.  I can assure you that C2 will be given the same attention as any other student at Archer for the remainder of the school year.

In regards to your reference to Michael’s conduct, he is still responsible for supporting all policies, rules, and regulations of Archer, and cooperating with and acting civilly toward members of the Archer community.

I spoke with Ms. Chase today, and she will continue to work closely with C2 to establish a new plan for getting caught up with her academic work following her recent absences. 

Kind regards,

Samantha Coyne Donnel Upper School Director

________________

Thus, the administration’s response to Anne’s sensitive, courteous and reasonable request for assurances that Child 2 would not be subject to additional retaliation or for guidelines on the sorts of communications that would evoke further retaliation, was a cold, curt and contemptible statement that, construed as intended, constituted an implied threat that to allow Child 2 back in school would subject her to possible random acts of spite by Ms. English:

In regards to your reference to Michael’s conduct, he is still responsible for supporting all policies, rules, and regulations of Archer, and cooperating with and acting civilly toward members of the Archer community”

What more proof is needed to prove arbitrary and capricious use of power?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *