Saturday, August 15, 2020

Lawsuit in progress: David Lynch Foundation abandons TM "Quiet Time" program in Chicago

A lawsuit has recently been filed against the David Lynch Foundation (the DLF), a Chicago Public Schools district, and the University of Chicago as a result of the Transcendental Meditation organization’s effort to orchestrate what it called a “research study,” to demonstrate what they have claimed are the benefits of TM for high school students. The plaintiffs bringing this action include the student, parent and substitute teacher who testified at a Chicago Board of Education hearing one year ago. They alleged that, to participate in the program, students were required to participate in the TM initiation “puja” ritual, which had already been found to be religious in nature in a previous Federal court case. They also alleged that students were coerced in various ways to participate in the program and that class time was wasted on meditation. All of these activities were running under the “Quiet Time” moniker, the somewhat generic, obfuscating title that the DLF has given to its advocacy of TM in both public and private schools.

Puja table set up for TM instruction.
Fruit, flowers and handkerchief are generally provided by the prospective meditator.
Photo by the author.

Read the original story here at the TM-Free Blog, from August 2019:
Chicago Tribune reports on allegations made by high school students, that they were coerced to practice TM  

Updates to this story, Williams v. Board of Education

The plaintiffs, who also include an advocacy group and an association of local churches, asserted that they were deprived of their rights by the DLF, the public school system and the University of Chicago, by violating the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The suit seeks redress in the form of an immediate restraining order against these three institutions, and various injunctions against the teaching of TM in Chicago public schools. The broadest of these requests is for “a declaratory judgment that facilitating, establishing, implementing, or reimplementing the “Quiet Time” program, or any other program involving the practice of “Transcendental Meditation,” within or through any CPS school violates the United States Constitution.” Finally, the suit seeks to obtain “compensatory damages for the mental anguish and emotional distress suffered in connection with the constitutional deprivations suffered at the hands of the named Defendants.”

Conspicuously absent from this suit as defendants are the entity that actually teaches and promotes Transcendental Meditation in the United States, along with the TM front group that works with the David Lynch Foundation to teach TM in schools. These legal entities are the Maharishi Foundation and the Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education (CWAE). The California-based CWAE claimed to have delivered the TM program to 2000 students, teachers and staff during the year ending July, 2017. The Maharishi Foundation manages the teaching of the Transcendental Meditation program in the US, collects TM course fees, and sends a licensing fee amounting to about ten percent of the funds collected through the teaching of TM, to the movement’s international headquarters.

The lawsuit is currently in the initial stages of litigation. Of particular interest are the disclosures now being made in documents that are part of the responses by the David Lynch Foundation and the Chicago Board of Education. The response by the DLF includes a formal statement that as of August 4, 2020, the DLF, the University of Chicago and the Chicago Public Schools haven’t offered any programming related to TM, including meditation instruction, for more than one year. They also stated that “there are no plans further to discuss programming in the Chicago Public Schools and the Foundation does not intend to offer such programming in the Chicago Public Schools at any time in the future.”

From a court filing submitted by the David Lynch Foundation, August 6, 2020.

The response by the Chicago Board of Education includes a memo dated October 25, 2019, from Michael Deuser, the Chief of College and Career Success of Chicago Public Schools. This memo was a formal announcement by school administration, in response to the concerns raised by a student at the July school board meeting, particularly with respect to the puja ritual which is an integral part of the Transcendental Meditation instruction process. The DLF refused to remove the puja from TM instruction, and for that reason the so-called “Quiet Time” program was discontinued.

DLF confirmed that the TM programming does include a ceremonial/ritual element at the beginning and DLF was not amenable to removing the ceremony component from their programming. Therefore, the Office of College and Career Success has made a programmatic decision to not continue the program with DLF.

At this point most of the proceedings concern the demand for an immediate temporary restraining order to prohibit the continuation of any aspect of the TM or Quiet Time program in Chicago public schools, which the defendants are contesting on the grounds that the DLF’s program has already been ejected from the school system. It remains to be seen how the other aspects of this case, particularly those involving compensation for mental anguish, emotional distress, and violation of constitutional rights, will be handled by the court.

Links to some of the documents from this case:


Memorandum of Law

Declaration of Dasia Skinner, the substitute teacher

Declaration of Amontae Williams, the student

Declaration of Darryl Williams, Amontae’s father

Resistance to Motion (from the David Lynch Foundation)

Board of Education’s Response, Exhibit 2

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