Josephson’s Response to Archer Chair’s Attack Letter

This letter was written to all Archer families in response to Co-Chair Barbara  Bruser letter  attacking the Josephsons’ motives and the merits  of their claims

June 28, 2014

Letter to the Archer parent Community

It pains our family greatly that we find ourselves in an acrimonious conflict with a school we have loved and supported since 2005. It is even more painful to realize, as a result of this controversy, many people we care deeply about may doubt our sincerity.

Once the battle lines of litigation are drawn it is inevitable that people affected by it take sides, usually without the benefit of sound knowledge of the underlying facts.

We just learned that, Barbara Bruser, chairwoman of the Archer Board of Trustees, sent every parent in the Archer community a letter seeking to discredit our claims and our characters. (see letter under “Developments” tab)

The stated reason for drawing you all into the controversy (and implicitly invoking you to support Archer’s position in this lawsuit) was that you may have already received a letter from us and that the school felt a need to respond.

Whether that assumption was the result of carelessness or a clever pretext to rally the troops we do not know.

We do know that as far as the Archer Community is concerned we only sent a notice to faculty and staff and a few dozen parents in leadership positions (a fact we would have confirmed had anyone asked).

As you will see from the letter reproduced below, our purpose was to inform them that the suit was filed and call their attention to the website www.JosephsonVsArcher created to provide them with complete and accurate information.

In any event, Ms. Bruser’s letter enlarged enormously the scope of direct communications about the lawsuit and she made a number of substantive claims including the assertion that our lawsuit is false, and misleading and that “the Board of Trustees stands firmly and unequivocally behind Ms. English, who has our complete and unwavering support.”

Ms. Bruser describes our lawsuit as “nothing more than a malicious and unjustified attack against our community” all the while claiming Archer is “a values driven institution and we intend to adhere to our values of honesty, respect and responsibility in responding to this meritless lawsuit.”  For what it’s worth, we consider that description disrespectful and dishonest. To date, Archer has nowhere and at no time disputed the accuracy of our description of the fundamental facts (i.e., events) set forth in our complaint.

Ms. Bruser concludes by asking for your discretion and a plea for your support. We read this as “be on our side and don’t talk about this lawsuit to anyone.”

We do not think this is an appropriate forum to argue the merits of our claims or the purity of our motives. That is why we have compiled all the information you need including extensive documentation to make your own independent decision.

Our lawsuit concerns every parent and child at Archer and deserves your sincere attention.

If at the end you conclude that our claims were meritless and malicious we deserve condemnation. If, on the other hand, you conclude that what Ms. English and the Board of Trustees did to our family was cruel, callous and unnecessary we hope you will raise your voice to restore Archer’s culture to the child-centered, supportive, and collaborative philosophy on which it was founded.

Some of you may want to withhold judgment until the case has been decided by a court but you should know that if Archer’s lawyers have their way, this case will be transferred to an arbitration proceeding clothed in secrecy and we will not be allowed to report the outcome.

We contend that preventing parents from knowing whether or not our claims were found to be true or not and what, if any sanction was imposed on Ms. English and others, is fundamentally disrespectful and irresponsible.

We have already been contacted by parents, students and former teachers  with their own horror stories about how they were treated to support our contention that the conduct we cite in our complaint fit a pattern of decision making we believe is arbitrary and authoritarian.

We are sorting through these stories and will be posting the most pertinent and credible ones to assist you in making your own decision.

We have not seen the story yet, but you may also get some insight on Ms. Bruser’s claims that our lawsuit is malicious and meritless from an article to be published soon in the Los Angeles Times. It was the result of intensive research and interviews. We are anxious to discover which parts of our claims Ms. Bruser and Ms. English believe were false or misleading.

On the merits and our motives, we implore you to withhold judgment until you at least read the detailed and documented complaint (under the tab “Pleadings” at JosephsonVsArcher.com).

However, we know that many of you will not have the time or inclination to visit the website (in fact, reading this far into this letter may already have required a greater investment than you intended). Consequently, it is prudent to make one last point.

Ms. Bruser points out that Archer is a values driven institution, but there is abundant evidence that the values that currently drive their reaction to this lawsuit are the values of secrecy and deception through selective disclosure.

Just two days ago Archer dispatched two lawyers with about 50 pages of legal documents to court in an effort to compel us to take down our website and refrain from ALL communications about our grievances and lawsuit to ANYONE by ANY MEDIA. (The motion and supporting briefs are posted on the website).

In a special hearing that did not last more than 10 minutes, the judge (without even looking at Archer’s massive papers) summarily rejected the lawyers’ motion as it had no merit.

This effort had to cost many thousands of dollars and was a colossal waste of the school’s money.

As to deception by selective disclosure: while the lawyers claimed that distribution of any information about the lawsuit would cause Archer irreparable harm, they failed to tell the judge that Archer itself had already launched its own mass communication campaign to all parents. (We only found out about the letter when the reporter asked us about it after the hearing).

As you consider Ms. Bruser’s effort to call on your patriotism to support the school you may find it relevant that Ms. Bruser is a named defendant, not only because she is a member of the Board but because she was a direct participant in many of the actions we think were unprofessional, unnecessary and improper. (For example, two days before the decision was made to prevent one of our daughters from completing her education at Archer because Ms. English was offended by Michael Josephson’s opposition to her decision regarding the family’s other daughter, Ms. Bruser and co board member Cathy Helm met with Anne josephson – then a member of the Board and assured her that this retaliatory action would not be taken).

Thus, her potential liability is far greater than less involved board members and her request for support has more personal significance.

If the entire Board “stands firmly and unequivocally behind Ms. English” and if Ms. English has their “complete and unwavering support” that means they endorse and approve of the way she handled this matter.

Whether it is in Archer’s best interests that the Board supports Ms. English’s actions, leadership style and continued tenure remains to be seen, but one thing for sure, be on notice that with the Board’s endorsement, you and your children may be subjected to the same kind of behavior our family experienced.

We do not anticipate further direct communications but if you want to be removed from our distribution list, please just respond to this note with the word remove.

The letter sent previously to the Archer parents in leadership positions is attached beneath the signature line.

Please keep an open mind.

Sincerely,

The Josephson Family

______

Previous letter

To the Archer Community

As an active parent in the Archer Community you may have heard that, after arduous and extensive attempts to resolve our grievances, Anne and Michael Josephson and two of our daughters recently filed a lawsuit against Elizabeth English, the Board of Trustees and Archer School for Girls.

We did so very reluctantly as we have been long-time patriots of the school since 2005 and Anne was until recently a member of the Board.

I will not encumber you with unwanted detail but our reputations and Archer relationships are very important to us and we know there already has been and will be more misinformation communicated about the suit and our motives.

I write to call your attention to a website www.JosephsonVsArcher.com we established to give folks who want to know the true story access to a summary of our efforts to resolve the matter without litigation, the conduct that gave rise to this action, the legal documents and supporting evidence.

We will update the site as needed to assure that you have access to information will allow you to form an independent opinion on the nature and propriety of our actions as well as the actions of Ms. English, the Board and Archer’s lawyers.

To assure fairness, we have pledged to post, unedited, comments or information that Ms. English, ARCHER, the Board and their lawyers wish to post if they think anything we posted is inaccurate or incomplete.

I don’t anticipate communicating in this manner often but if you would like to be removed from the distribution list please just respond to this email with the word remove.

Please read the basic facts posted on the website and keep an open mind.

Sincerely,

Michael Josephson

Comments 2

  1. Dear Mr. And Mrs. Josephson,

    As a very happy Archer parent of two daughters who both began in the 6th grade (class of 2015) and (class of 2018), I strongly believe this matter would have already been over had you simply reiterated to your daughter that she screwed up big time and this was her consequence, and you would help her face it. I am sure you would agree it would help build her character. I wish you and your wife had told her she could and would do it. Period. She frankly deserved it, despite how anxious it made her to think about appearing before the honor council.

    This certainly need not have been escalated to a lawsuit. Now, you your lovely youngest daughter who I know has to leave a school she loves and very good friends unable to graduate with them. I think this is so unfair to her and could have certainly been avoided.

    Empathy, Manners, Resilience, Grit, Honesty, Character, Human Values, Compassion, are how Archer is literally preparing our daughters to become the Future Leaders of the World. This is no secret either, it is what sets Archer apart from other schools, and is why Archer was the ONLY SCHOOL WE APPLIED TO.

    I support the Honor Council. It is an appropriate consequence and way to handle kids who behave like Child 1.

    True Story: A few years before our family had our first 6th grader at Archer, a daughter of a very famous writer, actor, producer, comedian did something cruel to another student at a Fall Outing. Because the father’s attitude was kids will be kids and was unwilling to say his daughter had done anything so bad, were asked to leave the school. And they did. No lawsuits. Just went to another school, which cared more that he was famous than anything his daughter or him did or did not do. That is not Archer.

    At Archer’s core belief system is that they are teaching our daughters to be the Future Leaders of the World, and that takes both of strength of character, leadership, graciousness, and empathy.

    I think appearing before the honor council was something your daughter certainly should have been prepared for after her appalling behavior during a calculus exam where students report she cussed out the teacher and kept leaving and reentering the room cussing, making the test even more anxiety inducing for the other students than it already was. (None of them did what your daughter did.)

    If the very thought of appearing before the honor council was that scary (so what?) she could have been prepared for this and calmed by her parents, Advisor, School Psychologist, private therapist, (or anti anxiety medication if needed.) I think even though she was scared and it would have been very difficult it would strengthen and build her character. Because something is difficult does not mean a person should not do it. She needed to right a wrong, show remorse, learn self-control and empathy.

    Frankly, if my daughter had done what your daughter did I would support her by preparing her mentally for honor council because she would have been mortified at her behavior, and anxious about the outcome, but she would absolutely want the chance to apologize. All kids make mistakes. The way we help them deal with them and accept consequences is what helps prepare them to leave the nest and excel!!!!

    I would also support the school, the teacher and the students she cussed out and disturbed throughout a calculus test. Most of the other students -I am sure -had worries and anxiety about the test just as your daughter did.

    Until pre-calculus this 11th grade year my daughter did fine in math, even liked it. But, calculus was another story. As her teacher said on parent’s night “with calculus you either get it or you don’t.” Because my daughter struggled more than she ever had in math this past year, she would often stay late after school for help. But, ultimately, she and her college guidance counselor agreed that for her senior year she would avoid calculus and take an extra science class instead.

    If I were in your situation, instead of being litigious I would have helped my daughter find the courage to face the consequences of her actions, as every Archer student is required to do. And then daughter 2 would have been able to stay at her beloved school and graduate with her friends. She got the short end of the stick.

    1. Post
      Author

      I appreciate and respect your perspective but you weren’t there. You have no idea how hard Anne and I tried to convince her to go through the hearing but once she had a serious emotional meltdown and we sought the help of a therapist we both became convinced that further efforts would simply make things worse. You might think you would have done otherwise and maybe you would have but until this blew all our of proportion we thought Archer’s traditional approach focused on non coercive discipline would have allowed us to find an alternative that met everyone’s needs. Had Ms. English not take the issue out of the hands of Samantha Coyne I am sure this would have been quietly and quickly resolved. I wonder whether there are thoughtful parents and other friends of Archer urging her to disengage instead of hoping we will walk away.

      Why aren’t you and others equally critical of Ms. English for following Archer policies of collaboration and non-coercive disciple. We could have found a serious punishment that would have satisfied Ms. English without the enormous collateral damage our psychologist said would result. Instead, every single escalation of this suit was precipitated by an action by Ms. English trying to intimidate or crush our resistance.

      I want to assume you would not have gone to the trouble of writing your letter without first reading fully and carefully the facts — not the cursory, misleading version in Ms. English’s deposition, but the real facts, the full facts posted on the website.

      The interesting thing is that Ms. English doesn’t dispute much of our description of events. And her declaration describes C1’s conduct as clearly inappropriate 9and we agreed on this from the beginning) but far more moderate than your description derived from student-generated rumor (e.g., there was no “cussing” and the school never claimed there was.) Please re-read the facts at least paragraphs 12-52 in the complaint for C1 and all the allegations for C2. If you have an open mind, I think you’ll change it.

      Perhaps we could have and should have done some things differently, but that is equally true for Ms. English and Archer. They have had many opportunities to put this on another track but didn’t. Perhaps I deserve a “shame on you” but most certainly so does Archer.

      I don’t think there isn’t another private school administrator in L.A. who would not have found a way to deescalate the situation. Ms. English chose to use this as a pretext to punish me for daring to “oppose her” — always respectfully but i did not back down when it was clear she was trying to force our daughter to participate in a process that for her, in the state she was in, would have been highly damaging.

      Archer refused our very reasonable terms for a settlement and chose to subject itself to public scrutiny, They will be much the worse for it. Some like you will support Ms. English and condemn us but many will support us and condemn Archer. you may be comfortable with granting the head of your school complete autocratic rights but many others, like us will never be. Archer has already paid a huge price and they will pay more. The publicity on this case is just beginning and I am willing to support my belief that the vast majority of neutral folks will support our position — we will win in the court of public opinion. And, in a sense we both will lose.

      Whether you want your school to behave the way Ms. English did or not, surely you can see that in defending all her actions the Board has chosen to squander the school’s resources, jeopardize its building program and very seriously damage its reputation. I wish for Archer’s sake, Ms English was willing to put the school’s interests above her own and resign. I have heard from nearly a dozen parents and students who are elated that we are taking up a fight they felt unable to do.

      It saddens me at the age of 71 to be in such an acrimonious fight but I am doing what I sincerely believe is right and i believe while I am certainly damaged in the eyes of some the people whose esteem means the most to me are proud.

      Whether it is in arbitration, civil court or the court of public opinion, Archer will lose because Ms. English was wrong.

      I have researched the law thoroughly (I guess you know I used to be a law professor). Whatever you think about the situation re: the HEC and C1 — and I wish you were more cautious in judging her and assuming facts (e.g., there was no profanity) — I don’t see how you can justify or be comfortable with the clear retaliation against my second daughter who did nothing except having an adversary of Ms. English as her dad.

      And even if I handled this badly as you believe do you think Ms. English was right to ban all four of our daughters from attending current or alumni functions and visiting their old teachers. Do you think it was proper for Ms. English to inflict more injury on my younger daughters by telling them one day before graduation that they could’t be there for their best friends?

      We are betting that objective observers will conclude that this sort of leadership is not what a parent going to an elite private school should be subjected to and that once everyone sees what happened parents will demand reform.

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