New: Last week, lawyers representing Ms. English and the board (they have at least 3 of them) obtained a ruling that all our intentional tort claims fall within the draconian but masterfully written arbitration clause all Archer parents are forced to sign. Consequently, if this judge’s ruling is upheld (we intend to appeal it to a higher court) we will never have a chance to prove the truth of our claims about Ms. English’s truly outrageous conduct or our claims that the board failed to provide any oversight on her arbitrary and capricious use of discretion though they knew, or should have known, about a significant pattern of misconduct.
Instead, if the defendants get their way, we will be forced into a highly restricted, VERY EXPENSIVE (about $8,000 a day for an arbitrator alone – parents pay half) arbitration process that shrouds the adjudication of our grievances in SECRECY so no other Archer parent will know the outcome. It also is rigged to prevent us from acquiring and presenting vital evidence and allows Archers’ lawyers to seek attorney’s fees (said to be in the $200,000 range). It’s no wonder that to our knowledge no Archer parent has ever gone to arbitration.
We tried hard to get a different result, but we expected to lose this first round in our legal battle to have our grievances against Elizabeth English and her board publicly resolved by a judge and jury. Their lawyers are simply too clever to allow loopholes to a mandatory arbitration clause intended to insulate the school and Ms. English from any form of accountability.
Thus, the focus of our conflict which started out targeting improper and vindictive actions by a woman who seems far more concerned with preserving her iron rule than educating children, has shifted to fighting a two- headed, lawyer-created dragon designed to frighten any parent considering challenging even vindictive infliction of harm on their children. The first fire-breathing head is MS. English’s claim to absolute discretion to throw out anyone who offends her; the second is the most oppressive and comprehensive arbitration clause one could imagine. A provision that makes it virtually impossible to dispute the way she uses her power.
If you are a current Archer parent you must understand this is not merely theoretical. Ms. English believes she has sole and absolute authority to refuse to re-enroll or even oust mid-semester any student whose parent displeases her and she uses this power with disturbing frequency.
One child was effectively forced to leave the school using the “you’re not happy here ploy” because her mom complained to a friend who happened to be a board member about Ms. English spending $1.4 million of Archer’s funds to renovate a mansion provided to her by the school. Another parent earned Ms. English’s wrath by asking for special academic help for their daughter. And our children were prevented from completing their education at Archer because we asked her to follow the Archer policy of collaboration and non coercive discipline by exploring alternative sanctions concerning our daughter’s unacceptable rudeness. Ms. English took offense that we should question her decision and she escalated the conflict over and over.
Together the ‘absolute discretion” clause and the arbitration provision put every Archer student and child at risk. Before lightning struck our family we never dreamed we would be at odds with the school or unable find an amicable resolution to any problem. Well, we were wrong.
These provisions will matter to you only if you or your daughter get on Ms. English’s naughty list. But if that happens you will understand why we think no institution of merit should demand this sort of power.
Given our long love affair with Archer (it started in 2005), we never would have imagined we would be engaged in an increasingly acrimonious battle that we know has damaged and will continue to damage the institution that has played such an important role in the lives of our four daughters. We believe, however, that the school we supported wholeheartedly has been hijacked by an administrator whose policies and practices have not only resulted in inexplicable abuses of discretion, but are seriously damaging Archer by driving out some of Archer’s finest teachers and counselors and alienating the surrounding community.
But we admit that this lawsuit is also personal, very personal.
If you have or have had an adolescent female child you understand how deeply and dramatically their emotions affect their perspective, their performance and their self-image. You also know that the remnants of emotional trauma can persist and negatively affect their lives long after the event itself has passed.
Imagine, if you will, the intensity of the pain, stress and humiliation a 17 year-old senior is likely to experience if, after she has already been admitted to college subject to satisfactory completion of her last semester, she is forced to withdraw and forgo the lifelong anticipated pleasure of senior activities and graduating with her friends. If someone offered you money if you would consent to this infliction of emotional distress on your daughter, how much would you take? Would you subject your daughter to this experience for $50,000,? $100,000? $1,000,000? Or would you say that your daughter’s experience and lifelong memories of culminating her high school career with positive memories was priceless? Not for sale at any price.
Imagine the intensity of the pain, stress and humiliation a 15 year-old 10th grader (still adjusting to her decision to become open about the fact that she is gay) is likely to experience if she was told that she would be forced to find another school because, an administrator was unhappy with her father’s efforts to protect her sister from the pain described above. Imagine, further the added pain and distress of being told by this administrator that she should blame her father since she did nothing wrong – in fact she was a model student. How much would you take to subject your daughter to this experience? Or, is this non-negotiable since you love your daughter and would never inflict or permit anyone else to inflict this sort of pain (if you could prevent it) at any price?
Finally, imagine the additional stress and pain if both these daughters, just one day before they planned to attend the graduation ceremonies of their best friends, were told they would not be permitted to do so because this same administrator banned them permanently from ever going on campus for any reason.
And if you have been imagining all this, imagine what level of stress and pain you would experience as a parent as you helplessly watch this administrator knowingly and intentionally inflict all this suffering on your children.
Finally, what emotions are you likely to experience when you realize this was all done vindictively as a pure demonstration of power and in retaliation for past confrontations you had with this administrator?
There’s a reason Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) is one of the scariest villains in literature
If anyone following this case has doubts about the vindictiveness of Ms. English and her willingness to go to any length to punish anyone who opposes her please consider the pettiness of refusing to let our daughters attend their friend’s graduation, the maliciousness of telling our youngest daughter to blame her father and the attempt to drive a wedge between one of our daughters and her father by deliberately misconstruing and misusing a personal letter she sent to Ms. English on graduation day. (See our daughters declaration)
Well, this is the underlying basis of this lawsuit and our passionate commitment to hold the administrator, Elizabeth English and the members of her hand-selected board who seemingly endorsed and ratified her every action, accountable and to demand reforms in procedures and policies to prevent this sort of abuse of power against any other Archer family.
The emotional injuries are compounded by the economic injury, not merely of finding new schools and professional therapy, but by the decision of Ms. English, supported by her board, to prevent us from seeking judicial review and remedy for these actions. If you read nothing else on this site, please read how the interpretation of the arbitration clause in the enrollment contract argued by Ms. English and her board puts your child at risk
Months of very expensive, time-consuming, reputation-damaging legal quibbling has focused, not on the merits of any of our claims, but in disputing the position of Ms. English and the board that, as a result of signing an enrollment contract, we surrendered all rights including the right to even talk about our story (they spent thousands of dollars and forced us to spend almost as much on their totally bogus attempt to get a gag order against us).
The dominant objective of all their lawyers’ efforts has been to clothe the entire process in an impenetrable veil of secrecy.
They don’t want anyone to know the nature all the things that Ms. English said or did to precipitate this lawsuit (wouldn’t you think if she thought her actions were proper and we are simply crazy parents that she should welcome the public vindication of her actions herself?).
They also don’t want anyone to know about the objections we’ve raised to the failure of the board to provide oversight and guidance to prevent abuse, of the disrespectful and disdainful refusal to seriously entertain our settlement offers and, of course, the way they are seeking to shut us down by a strained and oppressive interpretation of an arbitration clause they forced us and every other Archer parent to sign.
The technicalities of their legal argument (which, sadly, they could win) are fully revealed on this website including the lawyers briefs on the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration, our opposition to the motion and their reply are included under the Pleadings tab. (To understand why arbitration is not a realistic option and why we think the way Ms. English and the board seek to use the arbitration clause is unconscionable and dangerous read the posting at this link).
We hope our legal position will be upheld so we can prove the truth of our claims and force Ms. English and the Board to be held accountable. If we prevail, we feel certain the reforms we have advocated will be installed to prevent further liability.
On the other hand, if Ms. English and her board succeed in denying us this public forum they will establish a precedent that prevent any parent from daring to oppose anything Ms. English does in the future.
Even if we lose the legal battle over the arbitration clause we shall see and pursue every legal and ethical option we can afford to hold Ms. English and her board members responsible for the injuries they caused our family and for undermining a great institution.
Our immediate fate is in the hands of the judge who will rule on the motion on August 26, 2014. Wish us luck!