Classical Conversations #5: Leaders Threaten to Use Legal Force to Silence a Concerned Parent

Classical Conversations, Cease and Desist, Legal Threats, No Talk


Classical Conversations, Legal threats against parents, Squelch free speech

***

NOTE: This is part of a series that began with these earlier posts:


***

This is the 5th article in a series on Classical Conversations (CC), a supplemental homeschooling program used by over 100,000 homeschool students. The next personal story is from April. We will read about her concerns and how Classical Conversations leadership, via an attorney, attempted to force her to silence by using legal threats.  Throughout this post, I have interjected my comments in green font.

It is important to reiterate that the personal accounts told in this series are indeed personal. You may be participating in a group where none of these accounts sound remotely familiar. But if even one of these accounts is true (I believe them to be true), there is a problem. As it turns out, I am aware of several people who share a similar situation as April, and so I think people need to be aware that this silencing tactic used by CC leaders may be used against you if you share concerns, too. 

In April’s account, there are specific titles of Classical Conversations leaders mentioned which may be unfamiliar to people new to Classical Conversations (in fact, I’m not even clear on the titles). In the interest of time and space, we will not define the titles/responsibilities – it’s just important to know that they are leaders within the CC organizational hierarchy. 

Now, we move on to April’s personal story. ~Julie Anne


***

April’s Story

My name is April. In 2011, I was looking for a way to get regular social interaction for my then-2nd grader and toddler. I was familiar with the basics of classical education. After finding no negative reviews of the program, I decided to give CC a go, as it seemed to be a good fit.

The Community Years

I was in a CC community for 4 years. It was a lovely community, but like most CC communities, we weren’t doing everything exactly “the CC way,” and most of us didn’t even know it. I was a tutor (a classroom teacher) in my 4th year, and even I didn’t know we were “rebels.” (I did not sign a contract or NDA, though, as is now required.) I didn’t know we were considered rebels until CC recruited and hired a support representative (SR)  from our community. CC hired a friend of ours and trained her to enforce their rules. And she tried. But we didn’t fall in line.

So, after several months of talks and meetings and mind-blowing spiritual abuse, we were essentially told, “If you don’t want to do things exactly our way maybe CC isn’t right for you.” So our entire community, save the new SR and her best friend on campus, left CC. In all, twenty-three families left. [The subject of spiritual abuse will be discussed more in depth later in this CC series.]

I was not devastated. We still had all our friends, but I was shaken up. I had listened to my former director and good friend sob on the phone to me after twice-weekly browbeating phone calls with our new SR and the area manager. I had endured personal tongue lashings for sending emails to my friends about how we should not have to suddenly do things differently because these women said so. We were like independent contractors, and we were delivering the product. We just weren’t delivering it precisely how they wanted.

And, I do mean “precisely”. We were dinged for:

  • using print-outs in class when we were supposed to be handwriting everything.
  • having the most basic of dress codes – a navy or white polo with any kind of solid color bottoms – meant to honor the church where we met.
  • combining the messier science experiments and art projects.
  • using a middle-school program created by a private individual, along with CC materials.
  • not running things simply enough and within the time limits imposed for each subject to be taught.

When I asked WHY we needed to do things these certain ways, I was told that we were like children, and CC leaders were the parents, and that sometimes parents do things that their children do not understand but are for their own good. And, the children don’t need to understand. I was a PAYING customer and was compared to a child.

It was a level of control I found mind-boggling, and yet I know our community had it better than some. At least we stayed together even after we weren’t with CC.

The Year After: Sharing Our Concerns

Our CC families roughly went one of two directions: to an independent co-op that stayed at the church where our former CC community had been meeting, or to a university-model school/co-op hybrid. We were happy, but my confusion and concern about why things with CC had happened the way they did lingered.

I started leaving comments on blog posts about CC, just telling our story. This was how I found a Facebook group where some of the questions that had been plaguing me were being addressed. The group was called “Exploring CC’s Business Structure,” and it lasted a little over a year. In that group, I discussed what happened to our CC community and CC’s business practices in depth. At least 100 women from all over the country were sharing their own stories and concerns about CC.

The group was public, and the owner of the group consistently invited CC leaders to address our collective concerns. CC leaders who could accurately answer our concerns never chimed in, though we had been told many times they knew about our group. If you have never dealt with Classical Conversations, or if you have flown under the radar or never had many questions, you may never have experienced the evasion and secrecy surrounding almost every aspect of CC’s business and rules. But, if you have had questions, you know. You most likely hit a wall. The ultimate defense CC leaders use against questions is silence. [This is classic gaslighting. It is crazy making. You know you’ve asked questions, you know the leaders have seen them, but they act like they don’t exist. This puts you in an awkward situation where you feel the need to walk on eggshells and bring the subject up again and risk more gaslighting.]

So, we in our little Facebook group were left to speculate as to why the rules were what they were. I was pretty outspoken with my theories. No CC leader with any real authority ever came in to correct me or to explain away my theories. We were on our own.

Contacting Churches, Classical Conversations, and Threat from CC’s Attorney

I think I was already “on the radar” of the CC leaders, but I guess I didn’t seem very threatening until I started contacting churches.

It began when I discovered that my old home church, the church I had attended for over 12 years, had hosted CC’s summer conference called “Practicum,” and was planning to host a CC community in the fall. I was concerned. I wanted the church I still loved to know our story. So, I contacted my former pastor via email and let him know a little bit about our community’s story. I also added that Classical Conversations and nearly all of their communities are for-profit organizations.

My former pastor did not know this. He said he had been told it was “a group of homeschoolers meeting together.” I could tell he felt like he had egg on his face because the church had a strict policy against hosting for-profit groups of any kind. My former pastor said he felt fooled. They decided not to host a CC community that fall.

This whole experience was upsetting to me. I was thinking that surely my old church had known that CC is for-profit and had worked something out. It was appalling to me that they did not even know. I began to become concerned that other churches in my area may not know and could possibly go against internal church policy without really knowing it. I decided to contact churches in my area listed on the CC website to let them know that CC is for-profit. I was behaving as a concerned citizen and Christian informing churches of an easily verifiable fact: CC is a for-profit business.

I contacted approximately 10 churches one day, and then got on with life, planning to contact more later. I heard back from a few. Several said they no longer were hosting CC communities (though they were still listed on CC’s website as host churches). Others eventually shared that they also did not know it was a for-profit company.

Almost two weeks went by from when I contacted those 10 churches. One night, I let my former CC support manager, area manager, and regional manager know what I was doing. For all I knew, this was an issue of a local failure to train CC leaders to disclose the for-profit status of the group up front. So, I emailed them and expressed my surprise at finding out my former home church had not known the group was for-profit. 

To my recollection and according to my emails, I never said to any church or CC manager that I was afraid that the church could lose its non-profit status over hosting a CC. I only mentioned property tax exemption specifically (NOT non-profit status) to CC managers. I never spoke of losing property tax exemption OR non-profit status to churches. That is an important distinction to note when you read the letter from the attorney below. I also wrote that I hoped they would train their leaders to disclose for-profit status to churches up front.

Less than a day after I sent the email to my former managers, the CC National Director over our area of the country emailed me. He said one of the churches I had contacted forwarded my “letter” on to CC. In his email to me, he noted that I was NOT a CC representative and firmly asked me not to “speculate” about CC’s business arrangements. I took this to mean he didn’t want me to contact any more churches. He also invited me to contact him directly if I had any questions about the matter.

Boy, did I have salient questions! I wrote back and asked two things:

  1. was anything untrue that I had written in the email to churches?
  2. could he assure me that other churches were not hosting CC’s without knowing it is a for-profit organization?

I did not receive an email back from the National Director. One week later, on June 4, 2016, the law firm hired by Classical Conversations sent me a cease and desist letter – a threat letter. The threat: stop talking about CC this certain way or we might sue you for an injunction to force you to shut up and/or for money.

Note: a cease and desist (C&D) letter and a cease and desist order are two different things. A C&D order comes from a judge or other agency with legal authority to tell someone to stop doing something. A C&D letter is simply a complaint of alleged wrongdoing sent to tell a person to stop doing it or the sender may take legal action. That is why a C&D letter is often called a “threat letter”. It’s just a threat. It has no legal consequence in and of itself. It’s often used as a scare tactic to try to stop a particular behavior without having to go to the expense and risk of actually filing a lawsuit. [C&D is a tool sometimes used to squelch any negative communication that reflects poorly on an organization.]

Conclusion

After receiving the cease and desist letter, because of taking care of an out-of-town personal family issue, I wrote a letter to the attorney saying I would “stand down while respectfully disagree[ing] with the accusations” made against me. I haven’t posted publicly until just recently again. Cease and Desist Letter follows.

Cease and Desist Letter follows. 


Ward and Smith, P.A.
Deana A. Labriola, Attorney at Law
Wade II, Suite 400
5430 Wade Park Boulevard (27607)
Post Office NC 27636-3009

June 3, 2016RE: Cease and Desist Interference with Business Relationships and Interests, et al.
Our File 150219-00001

Please be advised that this firm has been retained to represent Classical Conversations Incorporated, a North Carolina corporation that you have communicated with and about on numerous occasions. This letter serves as a response to your prior communications with Classical Conversations and a demand that you immediately cease from spreading misinformation to others, including without limitation churches and individuals that have partnered with Classical Conversations, regarding legal and tax matters upon which you are unqualified to provide advice. [This attorney, on behalf of Classical Conversations, is stating as fact that April spread misinformation. This is not true. April clearly said that she told the churches she contacted that CC was a for-profit organization. The fact that CC is a for-profit organization is not misleading, but the truth.]

Specifically, it has come to our attention that you have contacted several churches throughout the State of Texas regarding Classical Conversations’ for-profit status and informed them that they may lose their non-profit status by partnering with Classical Conversations. [Note: April never said this to any church per her personal account above.] There is no legal basis for your assertions, which are simply inaccurate, misleading, and false. [Neither is there any basis for Ms. Labriola’s assertions. The narrative they are presenting is fictitious. In fact, it does not exist.]  Further, you do not have the professional qualifications that would enable you to render competent advice regarding these matters. [What advice is Ms. Labriola talking about? I don’t recall in April’s narrative that she gave advice. Furthermore, anyone she addressed this to would reasonably come to the conclusion that April was simply an interested party, not wanting any harm to come to a church whose focus is the Gospel of Christ. What a ridiculous conclusion to make that she was acting as a professional and giving professional advice. She’s a mom, for crying out loud.] This applies equally to the information posted on social media regarding nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements. [Maybe it’s just me, but this screams to me that CC is afraid of what might happen to CC if the public finds out how they have conducted their business.]

You have also made numerous defamatory statements concerning Classical Conversations and its business practices and leaders, directing these untruthful statements towards Classical Conversations’ Licensed Directors, local members of your community, individuals on social media and state government agencies. [Once again, Ms. Labriola, on behalf of CC has accused April of making defamatory statements regarding Classical Conversations. I’ve been involved in a defamation lawsuit. I know what it means. According to the legal definition of defamation, they are accusing April of lying intentionally with the intent to cause harm (malice).] Collectively, these false statements [April’s statements weren’t false] have caused unnecessary and unfounded alarm among Classical Conversations’ businesses affiliates and state auditors. Your conduct has harmed and continues to harm Classical Conversations’ reputation and its ability to engage in lawful business activities. [This is called displacement. April is being blamed for “harming” Classical Conversations’ reputation; however, there is a very real likelihood that they may have their own legal issues and harm to deal with, unrelated to April, because of not communicating clearly with host facilities about being a for-profit organization using some non-profit facilities.] 

Because Classical Conversations is a North Carolina corporation, your improper conduct and activities directed towards Classical Conversations may subject you to North Carolina law.

[They are attempting to be judge and jury here by claiming improper conduct. They can’t do that. Only the court can do that. The important key word they included is “may.”]

Under North Carolina law, it is unlawful to engage in conduct, such as providing misinformation, that causes an individual or entity to breach a contract or prevents an individual or entity from entering a contact it otherwise would have entered. It is also unlawful to make false statements that harm an entity’s professional reputation, especially when the individual making these statements lacks the professional qualifications to render such opinions. Consequently, your conduct may subject you to claims under North Carolina law for, inter alia, tortious interference with contract, tortious interference with economic advantage, defamation, and the unauthorized practice of law. These claims may entitle Classical Conversations to injunctive and monetary relief for the irreparable harm you have caused.

[Blah, blah, more legalese and threats. April didn’t make false statements, she shared concerns. Remember, the pastor with whom April spoke was surprised about the information she told him. Why didn’t the pastor know? I also spoke with a pastor whose church hosts CC. He, too, did not know this. I have a hunch if I got on the phone and called other pastors, I would get the same story. Why don’t these pastors know that CC is a for-profit business? Is it spelled out plainly in the paperwork? I would sure like to see the paperwork.]

Accordingly, Classical Conversations demands that you immediately cease, directly or indirectly through others:

  • Communicating to individuals and churches misinformation or unfounded speculation as to legal and tax matters on which you are unqualified to advise, including without limitation matters related to the for-profit or not-for-profit status of Classical Conversations and the churches it partners with or may partner with in the future;
  • Interfering with, or directing or instructing anyone to interfere with, Classical Conversations’ current and prospective business interests and relationships, including without limitation any and all relationships with its licensed directors; and
  • Posting, writing, or communicating through any medium information concerning Classical Conversations that is unfounded, inaccurate, false, misleading, or defamatory.

In an effort to resolve this matter amicably, within five (5) days of receipt of this letter we request that you: (1) confirm that you will cease and desist from engaging in the activities set forth above; and (2) provide Classical Conversations with copies of any and all letters, e-mails, or other communications that you have sent to churches concerning Classical Conversations’ status as a for-profit entity or related legal and tax matters. If we do not receive such confirmation and documentation, Classical Conversations may have no alternative but to pursue the legal remedies available to it as a necessary means to protect its business interests which your conduct has irreparably damaged.


We look forward to your prompt reply.

Yours very truly,

Deana A. Labriola

cc:  Mr. Gary J. Rickner

This is a classic conversation, alright; this is classical attorney-speak, but it’s attempting to have only one side of the conversation be heard. Conversation requires two sides. The cease and desist threat is intended to manipulate, scare, and squelch any conversation CC feels is threatening them (whether the conversation is true or not is beside the point). I’m glad that April has chosen to go public with this. Families involved in CC and those considering CC need to see the truth, and what may happen if questions are asked.

All CC had to do was simply send appropriate answers to address April’s concerns, but they didn’t. But wait . . . why would a company withhold information? Does it make sense for an organization to not want to discuss important tax information or other business-related questions? Something is smelling like rotten fish here. When I get the whiff of rotten fish, it only makes me want to dig deeper.

CC is behaving like a bully. Either they have handled the situation of their for-profit organization working with non-profit facilities, or they haven’t. If they haven’t, then they have a bigger mess, and no wonder they are using an attorney to try to stop the conversation April is bringing up. It’s quite simple to correct the misinformation if April has it wrong. CC has a public website and could address it there quite easily. The question is: why aren’t they addressing it? That should concern any new parent considering CC.

Update 7/18/18: It looks like the final revision I made last night did not update. It is now fixed. Both were in April’s personal account: a very minor edit in the italicized paragraph and the conclusion paragraph was left off entirely. ~ja

photo credit: Patrick Feller Jefferson County Courthouse, Beaumont, Texas 1805311219 via photopin (license)

45 comments on “Classical Conversations #5: Leaders Threaten to Use Legal Force to Silence a Concerned Parent

  1. “After finding no negative reviews of the program, I decided to give CC a go, as it seemed to be a good fit.”

    No negative reviews, huh? I wonder just how much effort CC people put into online image management, nationwide. And who knows how many parents and churches would decide not to go with CC, if they had the whole picture. They’ve obviously been accustomed to pastors not asking too many questions before.

    Like

  2. The worst part about that letter is that the big expensive lawyer was paid with the hard earned money of the good homeschooling families. Think about where CC is spending your money.

    Like

  3. It looks like the final revision I made last night did not update. It is now fixed. Both were in April’s personal account: a very minor edit in the italicized paragraph and the conclusion paragraph was left off entirely. ~ja

    Like

  4. Well April, I would guess you are shaking uncontrollably after that ” scary letter” as I would when my niece would cover her face with a blanket and then pull it away yelling BOO BOO (she was like 1 1/2 – 2 years old at the time). Later she would cover herself with the blanket and lift herself up like Dracula and say blaa bla . That is basically what this attorney is doing and really making a fool out of herself. I’m familiar with the firm and they are nothing special. Not exactly a crack team of litigators. They have several offices in North Carolina, less than 100 attorneys total and the attorney that wrote you is basically a small business attorney. The firm basically practices in every area of law. Not the type of specialized firm you retain when you actually plan to sue. Litigation attorneys don’t write “scary letters” threatening to file. They just file and take it from there. Unless you live in North Carolina this firm couldn’t sue you. They would have to retain counsel where you live. They could attempt to sue you in N.C. but all you would have to do is appear and make a motion for change of venue as you worked for them in your home state.

    That being said I wouldn’t respond to the letter. Well me being me, I might write a response on the bottom of her letter in crayon:

    ” This week I’m filing a form SS-8 with the IRS so my status with Classical employment Tax Avoilders can be dermined as with respect to my being a part time employee or legitamate independent contractor. Upon ruling by the Service that I’m in fact an part time employee (along with all persons doing the same job or fuction ) under the direct supervision & control of the for profit corporation , I will be filing form 8919 so the Service can correctly compute the unpaid employment taxes and the 100% pentality mandated by congress for misclassification of workers as independent contractors. ”

    THAT IS WHAT Classical Conversations ( ie classic cons in my opinion ) is worried about. Their entire business model is classic tax evasion through misclassification of employees as contractors. Avoilding employment taxes (Fica) federal & state employment taxes , social security etc that the employer has to match and unemployment taxes on the entire payroll, is a huge advantage to any illegally operated business.

    The positions that are being classified as independent contractors by Classical clearly aren’t as a matter of law. In fact there is a 20 question set of qualifiers and these positions fail a huge number of them. The first person working for CC that files a ss-8 with the IRS will set off a crescendo of tax issues for the company. They will have huge tax acessments going back for years as they clearly are operating outside of sound tax advice and the law. Just goggle the forms I mention or call the IRS. This is a huge area of focus for the Service and the Department of Labor, which along with your State labor board will also start an investigation if contacted. All it takes is a few letters laying it all out.

    Ms. Labriola, You are free to think the home school mom you wrote is “unqualified ” to assess your client’s business practices, but I asure you I’m not and neither is the Criminal Enforcement of the Internal Revenue Service. Now go be a good attorney and look up the criminal penalties for misclassifying workers. Yep, it’s a crime and by Friday a letter of complaint will be hand delivered to the CID of IRS which is exactly nine miles from my home. If your letter was intended to intimidate, I’m not impressed.

    Oh a hint on the criminal penalties, a year in federal prison and $1,000 fine per misclassified worker. The civil penalty is 40% of the employee’s tax, the entire unpaid employer portion of FICA and an additional 100% civil penalty. Then there is the state acessments from every state where CC has workers.

    Have a nice day.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Unfortunately, not passionate enough about this, but it seems like it would be a great non-profit idea to collect these letters and start petitioning the state licensing boards to disbar these attorneys.

    Being somewhat interested in all these cases where district attorneys and social workers overstep their bounds, it seems that the only thing that will stop it is suing the individuals in civil court. Once the “goon squad” realizes that their house, car and lifestyle could be at stake if they abuse citizens, I think they’ll clean up their act, and I think if there are enough instances where the bars have taken a tough stand on malfeasance among their number, it’ll clean things up quite a bit.

    Like

  6. Wondering in the South, you asked
    Where is the other side of the conversation? The emails with National Director?

    I’m happy to answer with a copy of the email sent to me by the National Director West (he’s now National Director South) and my response to him. He never emailed back or answered the questions in my response. I received the cease and desist letter one week later. You’ll notice in the cease and desist letter that it states “This letter serves as a response to your prior communications with Classical Conversations…” So the threat letter was the response to my good faith questions you’ll see below.

    Here is the email sent from the National Director dated May 27, 2016 10:32 am (about 18 hours after I emailed the CC managers about what I was doing but almost two weeks since I’d sent an email about CC to a church):

    Hi April,

    I am the National Director, West for Classical Conversations. I understand you have been contacting churches in Buda, Kyle, Austin, San Antonio and other areas in the Texas Hill Country regarding CC’s business model and that of its licensed directors. One such church recently reported your communication to us and forwarded a copy of your letter. Although I’m sure your reasons for contacting these churches are well-intended, I would request that you do not speculate concerning CC’s business operations. We note that you are not a CC representative, nor are you authorized to speak on its behalf with respect to its business arrangements. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions regarding this matter.

    Very respectfully,
    Andrew R. Truitt

    And here is my response dated May 27, 2016 at 3:40pm:

    Mr. Truitt,

    Thank you for your communication. Before I proceed with my planned course of action, could you please elaborate on what you find to be “speculative” or “speaking on behalf of” CC in the email you have been forwarded from me? Can you point me to anything I have written in that email that is not true?

    My intent in sending these emails is only to prevent churches who might have a policy not to host a for-profit business from accidentally hosting one. I was concerned when I myself learned that CC’s for-profit status had not been disclosed to a church I had attended. Can you assure me that this is not happening elsewhere than this church?

    I have more questions that you might able to answer if you would be open to doing so. Thank you for considering it.

    Respectfully,
    April

    Like

  7. Cease and Desist, Legal Threats, No Talk

    Does that remind anyone here of all those Corrupt Churches and Not-a Cults that get exposed all the time on this blog?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. @Scott253:

    That being said I wouldn’t respond to the letter. Well me being me, I might write a response on the bottom of her letter in crayon:

    ” This week I’m filing a form SS-8 with the IRS so my status with Classical employment Tax Avoilders can be dermined as with respect to my being a part time employee or legitamate independent contractor. Upon ruling by the Service that I’m in fact an part time employee (along with all persons doing the same job or fuction ) under the direct supervision & control of the for profit corporation , I will be filing form 8919 so the Service can correctly compute the unpaid employment taxes and the 100% pentality mandated by congress for misclassification of workers as independent contractors. ”

    Sounds like a plan.
    Chicago Rules.

    P.S. Was this “scary letter” timed to arrive just before a three-day weekend or holiday? So you couldn’t get any counsel or react before a “two-day” deadline before “We will be forced to take legal action (See you in court)”? I got that trick used on me in an inheritance feud many years ago, and it’s the Mark of a Shyster. (“If you weren’t Being so Unreasonable, We Wouldn’t Be Forced to Play Hardball Like This..”)

    Like

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy,

    It was, indeed dropped on me at 4:21pm EST on a Friday leaving me really only 2.5 business days to attempt to secure legal counsel and respond. Not a holiday or 3-day weekend, though. I guess they couldn’t afford to wait until the next holiday?

    Like

  10. Scott – I’m assuming you’re an attorney? How protected is CC Corporate because it’s the directors in hundreds of small businesses actually labeling tutors as independent contractors (based on the mostly VERBAL assurances of sales managers that everyone does it this way) vs. being contracted directly with CC?

    What about how tutors are expected to attend three days of training by corporate?

    Is CC as well covered against a widespread penalty as they think they are?

    Like

  11. (of course this is in addition to the complication that a tutor would have to blow the whistle on her FRIEND – the director – who also isn’t making much money. And there isn’t much anonymity possible when there are only 2-6 tutors per community)

    Like

  12. Kami is right. Tutors (CC teachers) technically work for and are paid by the Directors of individual CC campuses. Directors are licensed by CC and saddled with all of the liability of being “independent business owners” including hiring tutors. Directors are not even granted protections as a franchise, because CC does not follow franchising rules, calling the communities a “business opportunity” not a franchise.

    Now, other CC “local leadership” – Support Reps and Area Reps… they are paid by CC. I imagine an ss8 filed with the IRS by a current or former Support or Area Rep might be more effective?

    Like

  13. Thank you for letting your voice be heard, April.

    April’s story is so important for those who have been hurt in some way, shape, or form – verbally, non-verbally, or in writing – by Classical Conversations Inc. and their representatives. Know that you are not alone. It is also important for those who refuse to acknowledge the stories of those who are finally coming forward in search of the truth. Above is an ACTUAL LETTER from a lawyer hired by Classical Conversations. This letter CANNOT be denied!!!!! As soon as one of these SSB posts is published, those with blinders covering their eyes assume that these are isolated incidents and that the person telling the story is in the wrong. Then they think they can sweep the negative under the rug by sharing their positive stories and stats, but in effect what their comments reveal is an uncaring attitude of “because that’s not my story, and it didn’t happen in my community, you’re wrong or there must be something wrong with you” leaving the victims are reinjured by implying that they should just get over it because CC isn’t for everyone.

    It appears that April’s community DID find what worked for them. However, CC and their representatives STILL tried to bully them into submission. And if that wasn’t good enough, it appears they picked on one homeschooling mom to prove their point. I heard minimal details about this story from several states away during training meetings, but now I have seen PROOF IN WRITING of a story that was easily dismissed among leaders when questions were asked at training. Shame on all those involved in what you did to this family and their community. I certainly don’t think that any church or pastor would agree with the way this was handled.

    So, once again, we see that the paying CC customer (that would be YOU, homeschool dad / mom) is NOT allowed to ask questions, speak the truth or write a negative review? Churches and pastors are not given ALL the details of what is taking place under their roof (or, if they do ask questions, Directors can fool them by saying “we’re just a group of homeschooling families” rather than being truthful and saying “I’m a for-profit business who wants to rent your facility”)? Why aren’t Directors given tools and verbiage to represent themselves properly when approaching God’s people regarding the use of their building? With so much required training, why are they all not on the same page?

    Aren’t these verbal and written actions of a concerned parent the GOAL of the ENTIRE CC Challenge Program? Aren’t the parents supposed to be learning with their students so they can teach them at home and set a good example of how to use what they have learned to DRAW OUT THE TRUTH? Why then would CC lawyers and CC employees bully a parent for putting into practice what they have learned, expecting submission to their authority, which CC never had over her in the first place, when she is putting into practice the VERY thing she paid for?

    As more and more unbelievably RAW, DAMAGING, and HURTFUL stories rise to the surface on this blog and the Let Us Reason -for real- Facebook Group, it seems that Classical Conversations Inc. is losing the control that they think they have in the homeschool world. Hard working DADS and MOMS who are spending hard earned money, this is the kind of company you are funding with your tuition and fees – “One that would attempt to force her to silence by using legal threats”. The threats April received sounds similar to the threats Colleen Truax shared in her detailed story on a previous SSB post. How many more have received threats like this?

    I hope CC lawyers are standing by. I wonder how many more secrets they don’t want anyone to discover? And the situation that scott1253 brings to light with utter clarity about misclassifying workers is something that Under a Rock confirmed for me in SSB post CC #1. “I do KNOW that the Leigh was made aware of the IRS Issues which she was bringing to others. I do KNOW that they are cultish in their “not opposing Leigh’s decisions.” And, I do KNOW that I believe they have been a detriment to the home education community. I would love for THEM to “Know and be Known” for their evil practices of jeopardizing so many levels of leaders/ teachers and others who filed improperly. I do NOT understand why they have not had a “day of reckoning” with the IRS. The fines alone would seem to be likely to cause bankruptcy.” According to some of the research I’ve done, that day of reckoning might be on the horizon.

    CC has painstakingly reclassified and changed the titles of their OWN employees and Independent Contractors during recent years to meet IRS rules and regulations leaving ARs, SRs, Directors and Tutors to fend for themselves. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put together a chart showing how their business and pay structure works – or doesn’t work. One smart dad or mom could do that rather quickly. F/E Directors who are concerned that they have misclassified their tutors might consider hiring an accountant pronto, and have a lawyer waiting in the wings. In case you have not been told by your AR/SR, or whoever trained you at your Director Licensing Orientation, get your Director Licensing Guide out now and find the “not so easy to find” link to Carol Topp’s FREE book and read through it in haste before you accept another single dollar from an innocent homeschooling family. Landry Academy was NOT immune when the IRS came knocking on their door to investigate “a bunch of homeschooling dads and moms”. Some of those families lost THOUSANDS of dollars.

    I smell rotten fish too. They ALWAYS rise to the surface unless they are buried in the sand with the anchor of a wrecked ship on top of them. Digging will hardly be necessary at this point. Other small voices are telling their stories. Robert Bortins, please take the right action and show me that you care about my small voice. Your employees claim on the CC main Facebook page “We care about you.” You won’t find this statement though, because that post was deleted in an effort to hide “something”. Please show us all that at least YOU do care.

    One small voice that you silenced added to many other small voices that have been silenced over the years have now become one large voice that is being heard. Parents are being honest with their children about their reasons for leaving CC as they are old enough to understand. Classical Conversations Inc. Chief Officers, there is still time to make known the humility and integrity that you promote in your trainings. I want to believe it is buried below the surface and that telling the truth and making things right for your Employees, Independent Contractors, Licensees, Tutors, Families, and Students is what you choose to do before this next academic year begins. So many homeschool families who have sacrificed time, money, and even MORE for your million dollar business deserve better. Don’t bury your stick in the sand.

    Like

  14. Thank you April for sharing your story and letting the world see CC’s attack letter meant to threaten and intimidate you.
    What a bunch of hypocrites! They go on and on about “logic,” claiming to be guardians and spokesmen of “truth” and then they do this??
    What April experienced first-hand IS the truth. It appears CC has misrepresented itself to churches, not informing them they are for-profit. When exposed CC sends out a nasty letter, never answering simple questions.
    Interesting for a group that claims sharing CC information is gossip, they have no problem threatening lawsuits. How typical they get to pick and choose which biblical standards to uphold.

    Like

  15. Scott 1253
    I had heard that an IRS investigation had been attempted in one state a few years ago. I also heard that nothing came of it, either because the IRS found no wrongdoing or because the way CC is structured there would be too many small businesses with too little revenue to warrant pursuing.

    I am curious if this is the reason communities are kept so small and even changed and lowered the number of students allowed in a group. It may also be the reason that each level has their own small business. Would putting all levels under one Director be too much money that then legal action would be taken? I don’t know but was always curious. One director per community would make lots of things easier.

    The other new thing that would make any government investigation whether it be IRS, Federal Trade Commission or Workman’s Comp harder to investigate is the fact that Directors are no longer allowed to use the Classical Conversations name as part of their business name. They now have to call themselves something else. Why would a business that pays lisencing fees to a company be able to advertise their business using the Classical Conversations name, but cannot use it on their bank account or business lisence if they even have one??

    Like

  16. April, thank you for sharing. If you are anything like me, you may be mostly over the threat yourself but feel compelled to warn others. I have had people tell me to just move on. Today, I had a friend share that she was hurt that some of her Christian friends didn’t warn her about a very important issue. She was reminding me that as a Christian, it would be wrong of us to know about the snake on the path and not warn our friends/brothers of the real threat just around the bend. Because of the sheer numbers of unsuspecting families involved, I believe this is so important.

    I am part of a non-profit, nothing like CC, free homeschool co op run by a church. I shared about the group in a
    Christian FB page. We were using the Foundations Guide in one of our many classes. Everyone owned the book. So in essence we were all CC customers.

    A director attacked me personally on the FB page. She questioned my integrity and salvation and accused me of violating copyright. I sent her a private message and she continued to attack me. She tagged her Support Rep in the thread. In the private message she encouraged me to get a lawyer to make sure I wasn’t violating copyright law.

    A few weeks later, Keith Denton COO of Classical Converaations sent the church an email. He never came out and said we were doing anything wrong, but suggested it, and offered to help the church start a CC group.

    It seems they try to make their copyright seem more than it is and verbally tell people what they want, assuming that Good Christians won’t question and will “Come under authority”.

    I have to admit I was scared of receiving a Cease and Desist. I’ll admit I lost sleep over this issue. In the end, after a lot of research, I realized that they just want control. We dumped the book. Not because CC said to, but because we wanted to get as far away from a company that treats people this way as we could. That Director got what she wanted, but the company lost revenue because they trained her to behave that way.

    Like

  17. I’d never heard of this group until I saw Julie Anne start her series of blogs about it. Julie Anne, I loved how you made your comments in the text of the attorney letter- makes your points stand out more. What nonsense….but I wonder just how many letters of this type have been sent out to scare people and silence them… Kudos to you and April on this! Passing this along to my readers.

    And to Scott’s comments, if they had your address they’d surely be sending you a similar letter pronto! LOL I will be curious to see what comes of this.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thank you for this series. I have several friends who are heavily involved in CC, and I have worked practicums a couple times to help out a friend, even though I have no school age children. While I personally never had a bad experience during my very limited interaction with CC, it all seemed very clique-ish to me, especially as an “outsider.” I’ve had reservations about it being a good program for my family when my children reach school age, but this series and all the comments make me want to stay far, far away.

    Like

  19. scott1253, you commented, “Oh a hint on the criminal penalties, a year in federal prison and $1,000 fine per misclassified worker. The civil penalty is 40% of the employee’s tax, the entire unpaid employer portion of FICA and an additional 100% civil penalty.”

    Would I be correct in understanding that if a tutor filed an ss8 against their Director for being misclassified as an Independent Contractor rather than an employee, that these penalties would apply to the Director?

    And if an Area Representative or Support Representative filed an ss8 against Classical Conversations for the same misclassification CC would also be subject to the same penalties?

    Where can I find more information on this and a list of the 20 questions? thx.

    Like

  20. “A director attacked me personally on the FB page. She questioned my integrity and salvation and accused me of violating copyright.”

    The minute someone questions your salvation over issues such as these you can go directly to labeling it as cultic behavior.

    She can disagree over copyright issues and she can even question your integrity, but the minute someone brings salvation into an issue like this… they cross a serious line. That’s where something becomes clearly cultic in my view. It’s not even a question of if. They have crossed the Rubicon and unless they sincerely walk back that comment and publicly apologize for it, they are not worthy of having further discussion with you. That’s just sick and twisted to question someone’s salvation over things like this.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Pretty sure the copyright thing is bogus… unless you intend to make copies of the book. Maybe if you are a licensee, you agree to use the book in the ways that the contract obliges you to, but I just went to their page and put a book in my cart. If they allow me to purchase the book without making me agree to whatever their license is, then I’m only obligated to standard copyright law.

    Imagine how angry judges would get if every individual author could create their own contract applied to their copyright for what the book could be used for. Mine would be something like, if you read page 100, you owe me $100 million dollars. That would be great!

    Then we’d get a bunch of smart students that copyright their term papers… If you read my term paper, you must pay me. It’s be a hoot!

    Remember the whole FB thing where people were trying to put copyright terms on their posts? That worked out for them, I’m sure.

    Like

  22. @April:

    Headless Unicorn Guy,
    It was, indeed dropped on me at 4:21pm EST on a Friday leaving me really only 2.5 business days to attempt to secure legal counsel and respond.

    Figured as much.
    That’s an OLD trick tactic used by crooked lawyers. And sociopaths.
    Though “It’s LEGAL!” (and they’ll always remind you of that fact), it’s VERY underhanded and shady.

    Like

  23. “A director attacked me personally on the FB page. She questioned my integrity and salvation and accused me of violating copyright.”

    So bending the knee and burning the pinch of incense to them (“Classical Conversations is LOOOORD!”) is now Salvation-Level Dogma? Like YEC, The Rapture, and Donald Trump?

    Like

  24. @Headless Unicorn Guy

    Yeah. The first person knowledge in legal matters with whom I could speak by the time I got the email (after COB on that Friday) said essentially that I needed to take it seriously but that it was a jerk move. She writes legit C&Ds a lot and she said basic legal courtesy is to give two weeks to comply.

    Like

  25. Pingback: Classical Conversations #6: Rigid Rules and Legal Tax Concerns | Spiritual Sounding Board

  26. April, at any point did you contact CC Corporate in person or by phone with another party present to address your questions? I mean besides within the FB groups?

    Like

  27. @askingforafriend,
    You wrote:
    April, at any point did you contact CC Corporate in person or by phone with another party present to address your questions? I mean besides within the FB groups?

    (If this answer is too long for anyone please skip to the stars below – the sum up.)

    I agree with @Julie Anne. I believe you are asking if I fully followed a Matthew 18 process. Please allow me to explain to you my thinking on two levels:

    It was impossible for me to “follow a Matthew 18 process” in this. Matthew 18 does not apply.
    Even if it did apply, I can show you how my actions would hopefully satisfy anyone’s concerns about whether or not I attempted a Matthew 18 approach.

    Matthew 18:15-17 says (English Standard Version):
    “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

    You’re asking if I contacted a corporation, in person or by phone, with another party present – presumably step two of Matthew’s three-step process.

    Who do you say is “CC Corporate”? It is not one person, is it? Let’s say it was my lowest level of “CC leadership”, my former director. No, it was not she who sinned against me. What about the next level up? The Support Representative. I certainly disagreed with her about many things. The same goes for the next two levels up, Area Representative and Sales Manager.

    I could make a case that Andrew Truitt, the next level up (we’re at five levels up in the multi-level company now), sinned against me when I asked questions I was invited by him to ask and they were answered with a legal threat letter. (You can read his email to me and my response in a comment from me further up on this same post.) I suppose I could have emailed Me. Truitt again, but he had already ignored me once. I didn’t have his phone number. I was already legally threatened and afraid.

    I could make a decent case here that Matthew 18 became obsolete when the being to whom you refer as “CC Corporate” skipped straight to legal threats. Peace process over.

    But lets back up. Were I to attempt to raise an issue with the person who made the decision to have a legal threat letter sent to me, I’d have to know who that person was. I certainly would not be granted audience with Robert Bortins, Jr, CEO or Leigh Bortins, mother, founder. And who’s to say they even made the decision? Did you think I could make a phone call to CC’s customer service and lodge a Matthew 18 complaint? I’ve called them before with questions and every time been referred back to my “local leadership”. (That’s CC talk for Support Rep or Area Rep.)

    Here we have identified two circumstances which might reasonably nullify a Matthew 18 application in this situation: 1. the fact that a legal attack had already been threatened agsinst me and 2. the implausibility of identifying a singular person to whom I might go with my issue.

    But, let’s keep going. Let’s go to step three of Matthew 18:15-17 and look at whether it can be reasonably applied.

    Let’s say I was able to take a witness with me to Andrew Truitt, after he ignored my email response. Or even if I got an audience with Robert Bortins, Jr. or Leigh Bortins. And what if they “refused to listen”? Step three instructs me to “tell it to the church”. The Greek word here is Ekklesia. Some Biblical commentators believe that means a local church of Christians. Some believe it means the body of Christ as a whole, the Church universal.

    If the meaning is the local church, to which local church should I appeal? Leigh Bortins’ church in North Carolina (I’m guessing)? My church in Texas? Or if the meaning of Ekklesia is the Church universal then, well, what am I doing here? I’m “telling it to the Church.”

    The truth is, I don’t believe one can apply a true “Matthew 18 approach” to a multi-million dollar corporation. Because, at both levels – at the level of the one who sinned against me and at the level of the church – to whom would I go?

    You know that part in Philippians where Paul talks about how we are not to put confidence in the flesh or the Law, but if we were… Paul says he would be blameless? He was as law-abiding as one might be able to find. A “Hebrew of Hebrews”. And yet that did not matter because it did not apply to the current situation. It did not apply to Jesus’ new law of Grace.

    Well, I’m no Apostle Paul, but I’m going to take a page from his playbook and explain to you how I followed Matthew 18 as close as anyone could in my situation even though I don’t think it applies to my situation.

    When our Support Representative/friend returned from training and began pushing for changes in our community, I spoke to her privately. She “would not listen”. Next, I spoke to her with other Christian sisters. She “would not listen”.
    When our Support Representative would not listen, I spoke privately with the Area Representative. It was in this conversation that our community were compared to children and CC leadership the parents. Next, I spoke to her with other Christian brothers and sisters in a meeting. She “would not listen”.
    I was never granted private audience with the next level up, the Sales Manager, but she was present at the meeting I referenced above. She “would not listen”.
    Once I began contacting churches, I emailed those three levels of “CC leadership” – Support Rep, Area Rep, Sales Manager. They did not respond/”would not listen”.
    Instead the next level up, a National Director, emailed me to tell me to stop. I responded to his email. He ignored that email. He “did not listen”. Next came the legal threat letter from CC.
    Since then I have reached out in private contact with a contracted CC worker who says that she helps bring resolution to issues like mine. I met her while openly discussing my issues in a Facebook group. Otherwise, I would not have even know to contact her. She took my testimony and said she would bring my issue up with her “leadership”. She would not tell me who her “leadership” was.

    My first contact with her about this matter of my cease and desist letter was March 22. I was told a person in “CC leadership” would call me within hopefully a week.

    I contacted her next on April 25 to say I had not been contacted by anyone in “leadership”. At that point she took the time to take a statement from me that pretty much is a lot of what I’ve written here on this post. She had me approve her account of my grievances and sent that on with a prod to her “leadership” and asked me to contact her if I had not heard anything in another month.

    The final time I contacted her about this issue was May 31st. She expressed frustration that I had not yet been contacted.

    It’s July 24th and no one in “leadership” has contacted me. I don’t feel like they are listening.

    To sum it all up:

    I don’t believe there is a being who is CC Corporate. Nor do I believe there is a local church to whom I might appeal. Therefore, I don’t see how one can possibly apply Matthew 18 to this situation.

    However, if one could apply Matthew 18 to this situation, the answer to the question of did I contact “CC Corporate” with another party present is, “Yes.” I attempted to contact whomever might be the being to whom you refer as “CC Corporate” privately and with others as witnesses. I attempted it so. many. times.

    They “refused to listen”.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. @askingforafriend,

    If you were truly asking for a friend, please direct my respond to her/him.

    I wanted to add something that I didn’t add yesterday because my response was getting very long.

    This one is simple: that CC was willing to eschew a Matthew 18 approach but that many still-involved CC members and leaders continue to question whether or not I followed a Matthew 18 approach is proof of how they use that holy scripture as a weapon to question and discredit.

    They knew who I was. They could have begun a Peacemaker process with me. I was not even granted the knowledge of exactly who was threatening me, other than “Classical Conversations, Inc.”.

    They were in a much better position to actually follow a Peacemaker/Matthew 18 approach with me, while I was left to guess whom I should approach. I was ignored by 4 levels of “CC leadership” whom I approached, and I am currently on month 5 of being ignored in my most recent approach.

    So, please ask your friend: why is a Matthew 18 approach – which is nearly impossible for me – demanded of me while apparently CC, Inc. (whoever that is) gets a pass?

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Does it not smell of cult to have a “for-profit corporation” that wants to be considered a “brother” for purposes of Matthew 18.

    Would you do the same for Amazon or Facebook or Wal-Mart?

    Like

  30. April, thank you SO MUCH for your response. I AM actually asking for a friend who responded when I reposted this post on FB. I have directed her here again, and indeed said basically the same thing before I read your second post!
    I agree…CC has all the power here, and is wielding it with silence, instead of approaching with humility and grace. It’s…awful. Again. Thank you for sharing, and responding to me!! And….for sharing in the first place.

    Like

  31. Hi April, I am the friend who asked about this. Thank you for your replies and for sharing your story. I had not heard of Matthew 18 and wondered how it applies in this situation. A friend of my friend commented about the failure to use Matthew 18 on her wall on Facebook which is what prompted my question to her. It is unfortunate and disgraceful that this kind of finger pointing exists. Why did no one offer to help you??

    Thank you for speaking about this and being willing to educate others. In your shoes, I would not have the Biblical knowledge to defend myself. I find that disturbing since being unequipped should not be a disadvantage in a Christian community. I cannot be in a community that will bully others into silence. I appreciate knowing more about CC since I have considered it in the past.

    Keep speaking up. I admire you all.

    Cori

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Wow, @askingforafriend and @Wonder in the Woods, thank you!

    I admit I was feeling a little defensive when the question was asked. There have been so many who want to dismiss CC’s actions and pick apart mine. I’ve even heard that I “had it coming”. So, your validation is very much appreciated.

    Thank you for sharing the post, I hope your friend understands better now. Thank you for helping facilitate that possibility!

    April

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Everyone keeps mentioning this obvious and clearly documented misclassification of workers as independent, yet why has no one made a report to the proper authority for investigation as to whether this is true? If it is fact and they have thousands of “employees,” you are talking about them owing an astronomical amount of unpaid taxes to the Federal and state governments depending on how many years they can go back for that.

    Like

  34. Because the direct ‘employer’ is another local homeschool mom, the local group director, likely a friend. She probably just set it up ‘the CC way’.

    Like

  35. Exactly what Kami said. The vast majority of the ICs in CC are tutors. To file for a potential misclassification means filing against your director – another mom or dad. The directors are not paid directly by CC. They are paid by the families and, in fact, pay CC for the right to use their name (licensing), so they aren’t really ICs for CC. (Though CC had a very clear “you are an IC” clause in their director contracts at least through 2015. Kinda makes you wonder what kind of crack team puts together their contracts.)

    The people I think should file an ss8 form with the IRS to determine if they have been misclassified by CC Corporate are support reps, area reps, trainers, etc… But you just don’t meet a lot of those wo/men who are willing to pursue that. I think the SR/AR training is… altering. I’ve listened to a lot of stories of mistreatment from a lot of people associated with CC, and there are shockingly few former SRs in that number and even fewer former ARs.

    Like

  36. p.s. An SR or an AR or any other contracted worker paid directly by CC, Inc. does NOT have to be currently contracted to file an ss8 form with the IRS to determine is s/he should have been classified as an employee by CC, Inc. Generally speaking, the IRS can go back three years on a classification issue. So if you are a former SR or AR and want to see if you can get back some of the self-employment tax you paid by filling an ss8 form to see if you were classified correctly, you certainly can even if you were contracted with CC 3 tax years ago. Here’s the link to find out more: https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/about-form-ss8

    p.p.s. I’m not a tax expert of any kind. I’m telling you what anyone can find out online.

    Like

  37. Pingback: Classical Conversations: Business or a Non-Profit; Cult or a Christian Homeschool Group? | Spiritual Sounding Board

Thanks for participating in the SSB community. Please be sure to leave a name/pseudonym (not "Anonymous"). Thx :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s