Two New York City parents are suing their son's exclusive academy, alleging that school officials rigged an auction and forced them to pay $50,000 for a painting created by kindergarteners.
The lawsuit, filed on June 26 by Michelle and Jon Heinemann, alleges the $38,425-a-year Cathedral School of St. John the Divine swindled the couple during its annual silent auction held on March 1. While the Heinemanns could not attend the auction in person, they allegedly gave the school permission to bid as their proxy in order purchase a kindergarten class painting at the event.
Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that teachers and administrators mistreated their son, Hudson Cornelius, because "certain of the teachers and staff disliked [the Heinemanns] and the fact that [they] were generous donors to the school," according to a copy of the documents obtained by The Huffington Post.
According to the New York Post, the artwork contained "traced-and-cut-out paper hands of Hudson and his 17 classmates, all painted and affixed to paper." There was a belief the piece should not have garnered more than $3,000. Such paintings, the report notes, usually sell for no more than $1,200. But apparently not this time.
From the lawsuit:
29. Ann LaForge ("LaForge"), the Director of Advancement for the School, was fully aware of Plaintiffs' instructions with respect to bidding on the Artwork.
30. Upon information and belief, LaForge entered a maximum bid into the BidPal system on behalf of Plaintiffs at approximately $50,000.
31. Upon information and belief, after LaForge set the exorbitant bid limit, LaForge instructed Ms. Bryant, a first-grade teacher also employed by Defendant School, to use the automatic bidding of the system to bid against Plaintiffs and raise the price of the Artwork.
32. Upon information and belief, LaForge instructed Ms. Bryant that she should not be concerned about not having the funds to purchase the Artwork because she would not be held liable for the bids.
Altogether, the Heinemanns -- who own properties in New York and Maine, reports the Post -- are asking for damages of $415,900, plus interest, according to the court documents.
In a statement emailed to HuffPost on Monday, family spokesman R. Couri Hay said, "The Heinemann family is deeply disheartened by The Cathedral School of St. John the Divine's actions and request privacy while they try to resolve this issue and protect their children."
Administrators from the Cathedral School of St. John the Divine did not immediately respond to HuffPost's request for comment.
UPDATE: 6:15 p.m. A spokesperson for the Cathedral School of St. John the Divine denies the accusations, saying: "These allegations are sad, false and without merit. The Cathedral School has a more than 100-year reputation of excellence in education and service to its students and demonstrates a profound respect for the dignity and equality of every child.”
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