Suggestive Questions from Littauerberg

Littau: self-named "Parents' committee for a better school" distributes surveys to teachers

Littau, Switzerland
November 10, 1999
Neue Luzerner Zeitung

A committee presumably wants to sound out the situation in public schools. Traces of the operation lead to Scientology and to Littauerberg.

by Stefan Christen

"Do you think that violence in your school has increased, decreased or stayed the same in the past 10 - 15 years?" That is how the survey starts, and other multiple choice questions follow on issues such as "drug problems" "reading and writing levels of students" and "measures of the school board to decrease violence and drugs." And "What percentage of the children in your school take psychopharmaceuticals such as Ritalin or Fluctin?"

Sent to private addresses

For several weeks, the questionnaire has served as conversational material in various schools in Lucerne Canton. The reason: teaching personnel who instruct at public schools found the surveys with the cover letter in their mail boxes at home. Different principals in the Lucerne region have confirmed that such surveys have made their way among the teachers in their communities. Even Charles Vincent, Chairman of the Cantonal Office of Education, even if "unofficially," has heard of the letters, he says, which have even landed in the households of retired teachers. The envelopes, which have been addressed by hand, have not been broadcast by mass mailing: male teachers with lengthier experience appear to be the preferred addressees, as professor Franz Hofstetter in Horw has determined.

"Schulhaus Berg, 6014 Littau"

The string pullers have covered themselves in the questionnaire: it is signed only by a "Committee for a Better School," but not by anyone by name. "A questionable process," said Horw principal Edi Lang. "Not everybody would know who is behind it." The return address - "Schulhaus Berg, 6014 Littau" - and several statements in the cover letter indicate the direction from which it comes: the people addressing the public school teachers are "concerned parents who are not satisfied with the present relations in our schools, who also find certain decisions from the education board to be unacceptable, such as, for instance, the decision to close the successful private school "Schulhaus Berg" in Littau.

The committee is defined in the letter as a "loose association of about 20 couples of parents, some of whom send their children to the said school." The said "Freie Primarschule" is currently running against the wind: because of the membership of the teacher, Sandra Planzer, in Scientology, the administrative board pulled her instructional permit. In response to her objection, the administrative court handed down a decision which had a delaying effect: Planzer can - for the time being - continue instructing. Apparently the time until the final decision will be utilized in the environment of the contested school - also for surveys which Littau Primary School Principal Juerg Kretz, among others, thinks of as "typical for Scientology." That association gave permission for the construction and the content of the survey. Franz Hofstetter described it as "inherently tendentious"; Charles Vincent mentioned a "highly suggestive character" in speaking about it.

"Not a stirrup holder"

In other words, the questions imply clear-cut answers. If nothing else, there is the insinuation that public schools - in contrast to private schools where the problem is not mentioned - have become places of violence, drug and psychopharmaceutical misuse. "As though these social problems had been custom made by public schools," Littau resident Juerg Kretz shook his head. Kretz presumes that public opinion is being directed against public schools and for the "Schulhaus Berg." "There is no interest in playing stirrup-holder for such a project," said Emmen's upper grades principal Max Siegrist, who already threw his survey in the shredder. And Charles Vincent said, "The survey gives the impression that the public schools are doing nothing about the problems."

So who are the people united in the Littau parents' committee? The person who answered the phone to the number given on the survey's cover letter was Konrad Meile, Scientology member, official renter of the Berg school building and father of three children who are being instructed by Sandra Planzer. In the conversation, Meile disputed any connection with the closing of the school, he also said that in an "information page" which he faxed later and which listed a series of "negative points" concerning the behavior of the education department and administrative board in the withdrawal of the permit.

"Sound out tendencies"

Konrad Meile was apparently testing the waters with his action: with the help of an electronic telephone book "Twixtel," he found 400 addresses of academics in Lucerne Canton - "randomly," as he stated. The fact that only male, older teachers - who yearned for the old days - were addressed was "sheer coincidence," he said. Who else is behind the parents' association, according to Meile, has "not yet been exactly defined." It is currently being formed: the presidium will probably consist of three parents." As far as the real purpose of the survey in regards to the community, Konrad Meile's statements stayed somewhat nebulous: the survey was to serve to "find out whether there were tendencies in some direction, if yes, to investigate more thoroughly and, if possible, to offer a solution," wrote the Scientologist.

In view of the meager response, it may be difficult for the committee to assemble representative statements. Meile is now planning a new mailing to about 400 teachers - with a modified questionnaire which also takes "positive sides" into consideration. Meile stated per fax, "We absolutely do not think that everything in the public schools and in the education department is wrong."

Scientologist does not have to close her school

Littau, Switzerland
October 18, 1999

Littau. - The private school in Littau LU will remain open for the time being. The Lucerne Administrative Court granted the complainant a delay in the closing of the school by the administration. The administration had closed the non-denominational primary school directed by Sandra Planzer at the end of September because of a lack of trustworthiness. It based its decision on the membership of the teacher in the Scientology movement. Since the Administrative Court has granted a delay in the closing, the private school can open up again on Monday for business after the fall break. According to Planzer, the court has recognized her overwhelming interest in the continued operation of the school. A closing of the school would have destroyed the teacher's means of livelihood. (SDA)

Scientologists without school permit

Littau, Switzerland
October 1, 1999 Tages-Anzeiger

The Lucerne administration has revoked a private school's permit in Littau. It was managed Scientologists.

by Hugo Stamm

The Littau Non-denominational Private School in Lucerne began operations after the summer vacation. Community leader (Gemeindeammann) Josef Schaerli was happy that the empty school house would again be in use. Various companies would have been happy to rent it, even a sect, as Schaerli said. Therefore, he was pleased that he could entrust the building to a private school.

His joy was short-lived. It soon became apparent that the teacher, Sandra Planzer, and other representatives of the school were Scientologists. The Lucerne Canton administrative council reacted quickly and withdrew the teacher's permit it had granted, as the authorities stated on Thursday. The administrative council gave its reason as a lack of trust in the school's supporters.

Inquisition and burning at the stake

Sandra Planzer is outraged. However, she admits that she is a Scientologist and that she uses sect founder Ron Hubbard's study methods, yet she asserts that the school has nothing to do with Scientology. She wrote her opinion, "This affair is scandalous, counter to human rights and I feel it to be inquisitional. Fortunately, they don't burn people at the stake anymore, otherwise that's probably what they'd do to me."

Two failed attempts

It cannot be determined whether her school is really independent of Scientology. The fact is, however, that Scientologists have already made two failed attempts to obtain a permit to run a school. In Zurich Canton, the ZIEL school, a division of Scientology, tried to get approval in the early 1990s. (ZIEL: "Zentrum für individuelles und effektives Lernen". ABLE in the USA - trans.) After the school board turned them down, other Scientologists tried it in Aargau Canton.

Since the school board did not know who was behind the ZIEL school, it had granted its blessings. When the connections became known and public outcry was raised, the administrative council directed the school board to review the permit again. This led to revocation, on which account the Scientologists have appealed to the Federal Court, in vain. The judge based his decision on that of the Administrative Court, which had stated that Scientology support was not at all trustworthy. The Federal Court in Lausanne decided that high requirements must be placed upon the supporters of a private school in regards to integrity.

The story may repeat itself, because the Littau teacher does not want to accept the decision of the Lucerne administrative council and intends to exhaust all her legal means.

Scientology Membership

Littau School House must close

Littau, Switzerland
October 1, 1999
Neue Luzerner Zeitung

hag. The Lucerne administrative council has rescinded permission for 24 year old teacher Sandra Planzer to run the "Non-denominational Primary School" ["Freien Primarschule"] in the Littau Berg school building. Reason: "lack of trust in its backers." Teacher Planzer belongs to the Scientology sect and has been teaching school for a good year, first in Rain, and since the beginning of the new school year in Littau. That is where seven students have been under instruction since August. They are supposed to go back to the public schools.

Sandra Planzer believes that her membership in Scientology has nothing to do with her school. Planzer also intends to fight for its continued operation.

Officials have repeatedly turned down permits for school projects from Scientologists. That is what happened in 1995, when the Federal Court confirmed Aargau Canton's decision to revoke a permit for a Scientology school in Waltenschwil.

continued on next page ...

Friday, October 1, 1999 edition

Littau: Lucerne administrative council closes the "Non-denominational Primary School" run by Scientologist Sandra Planzer.

"Lack of Trust": Littau school without a permit

Because of her membership in Scientology, Sandra Planzer may no longer run her own school. However, the teacher wants to fight it.

hag. Actually, these lines should have appeared in the newspaper first thing tomorrow morning. But the Lucerne state chancellory had committed a faux pas. It broadcast the release of the decision to revoke the operating permit for Sandra Planzer's Non-denominational Primary School not to the involved person first and then to the media, but to both at the same time. And so the 24 year old teacher learned yesterday morning via a local radio reporter of the decision by the administrative council.

If they get their way, today is the last school day for seven children. Not only before fall vacation, but in general, for this school in the Littau Berg school house.

Students at public schools

"The district supervisor is charged with assigning the children involved to the public schools according to their current residence," read the state chancellory release. Withdrawal of approval to run Sandra Planzer's Non-denominational Primary School was founded on "lack of trustworthiness in the supporters of the school." And these supporters consist solely of the teacher, who first received a four year permit on July 1, 1998 (without financial support), and then ran a small school in Rain and had rented the Berg school house, which is now to stand empty for the 1999/2000 school year.

What the Littau community authorities didn't know rolled off the presses of the "Observer" ["Beobachter"] magazine in mid-September: Teacher Sandra Planzer belonged to the Scientology sect. "Any member of this organization lacks the necessary trustworthiness, as far as we are concerned, to fulfill the obligatory school requirements in running their own private school," said Charles Vincent, head of the Office for Instruction in the canton's education department. (Administrative council member Ulrich Faessler will be in the USA until October 18.)

Vincent is aware, however, that there are teaching staff in public schools who are alleged to belong to controversial associations, but "those people are not the sole teacher, as in the case of Mrs. Planzer, who instructs grades 1 through 6."

"No delaying effect"

Vincent and the ED did not learn of the "Observer's" research into Sandra Planzer's membership in Scientology: "The evidence was already materializing noticeably last year." The opinion of the supporter (Planzer), which the ED had required, was "not satisfactory," according to Vincent, because "the questions were not all answered." Therefore the revocation of the permit will now have "no delaying effect." In plain English: Planzer may no longer operate her school until - through a general purpose complaint by Planzer - the Administrative Court, or even the Federal Court, hands down a contrary decision.

"I am not a puppet"

Sandra Planzer herself cannot understand "that someone from ED has never visited my school." Therefore, the decision is "scandalous" as far as she is concerned. She says she is not a criminal, does not take drugs and always pays her taxes on time. Yes, she says she belongs to Scientology, but she says that is her own private affair and has nothing to do with school instruction. "I am nobody's puppet," she says, and intends to "fight" for her school. She did not know yesterday, in detail, how she was going to do that.

However, she will certainly receive support from the parents of her children. Konrad Meile, Scientology member and father of three of Sandra Planzer's school children: "As a free Swiss man, this process gives me a lot to think about. We have the intention of exhausting all legal means so that the school will continue to exist." And Erika Thomi, non-Scientologist: "My daughter, who has been going to school here for six weeks, is happy for the first time in her school courses. She used to be categorized as disruptive and was reviled - and now she has to go back there?" Erika is not disturbed by Scientology membership: "So what? That is a private matter."

Will the doors be shut in the Littau Berg school house? Apparently not at first. The long-planned open house tomorrow at 2 p.m. will be held, according to Sandra Planzer.