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I am writing in response to an article (“A Matter of Principal”) in the Sept. 4 issue of the City Paper on the School Without Walls’ principal Emily Crandall. I am currently a senior at School Without Walls and have spent the last four years…getting to know Mrs. Crandall.

What a shock it was to come into a school with a philosophy of artistic and intellectual freedom and be confronted with rampant censorship. There are few students at Walls who get along with Mrs. Crandall, because she does alienate herself by putting down almost every aspect of the average student’s culture, from the clothes they wear to the music they listen to to the books they read. She has made so many rules most of us no longer even realize we’re doing something wrong, half the time. However, we all generally know not to do or say much of anything around Crandall that doesn’t fit with her very strict requirements for conformity.

Though few like her and many hate her, no one would confront her about her positions for fear of being expelled. Even if you are not expelled, she wields great power in the school, and teachers will be afraid to like you if she doesn’t. It’s funny also that she seems to be so trigger-happy with some teachers, as you mentioned, but not with others. Teachers that the students have complained about for years have barely been investigated, and the administration keeps secret anything that it does and won’t tell the students what is happening.

There are also some excellent teachers at Walls. However, teachers such as these often get low evaluations from Crandall for reasons that seem incredibly trivial. Really, Mrs. Crandall is just finding an excuse to give them low marks because she disagrees with their beliefs (e.g., one who is an adamant feminist). Mrs. Crandall does have incredible power, and she uses it inconsistently to persecute anyone who disagrees with her.

It is obvious that something needs to be done about this problem. However, I have little hope Arlene Ackerman will do anything because, as mentioned, the test scores are so high. I know from experience, however, that this is not due to teaching or efforts by the school (though college classes are helpful, and some advanced placement classes). We were picked to come to Walls because we were already smart (at least in comparison with our peers, however much that says). Our test scores have very little to do with anything the school has done for us.

I have heard many students’ reaction to your article, and all were elated that someone finally had the courage to come out and say it. Perhaps you will follow up on this story sometime in the future? I am sure lots of people have things to say about this! Your article was right on target.

Please do not mention my name or e-mail if you happen to publish this little rant. I request anonymity for the usual reason—fear of retaliation by Crandall and school officials.

via the Internet