Reasons and Motives of Elizabeth English in Ousting Child 2 (Critical Correspondence)

This letter by Michael Josephson challenges the reasons and motives of Elizabeth English immediately after he was informed that the Josephsons’ youngest daughter, C2, who was a model student would not be permitted to continue her education. The reason was that Ms. English found Michael Josephson’s efforts to get her to consider alternative sanctions for C1 (the second semester senior who was being disciplined for rudeness). This news when conveyed to C2 had the impact Elizabeth English apparently intended – C2 was despondent about being forcibly separated from her friends and school and very angry at her sister and father.

Prior to making this decision Ms. English and the head of the upper school, Samantha Coyne, were informed of C2’s delicate emotional situation but, instead of looking for alternatives to avoid the extreme impact on a 15 year-old and commencing serious discussions as to her expectation, Elizabeth English was callous and autocratic.

Thus, having just experienced deliberate infliction of pain on still another daughter, Mr. Josephsons response was direct and aggressive. Yet his facts and arguments demonstrate the impropriety of the decision and the primary reason the Josephsons ultimate brought a civil suit against Archer and Ms. English.

Michael Josephson Challenges Reasons and Motives of Elizabeth English in Ousting Child 2

E-mail: Feb 7, 2014 at 10:07 AM  Michael Josephson 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

I make the rules

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