A family in Avon, Connecticut, has filed a lawsuit in federal court that alleges teachers at Avon High School indoctrinated their daughters into a cult.
The parents, referred to in the document as John and Jane Doe, have filed the lawsuit against Avon Public Schools, three teachers, a guidance counselor and Wellesley College in Massachusetts. The suit alleges two of the girls, now 22 and 19, became different people after spending an inappropriate amount of time with the educators.
According to the complaint, the family’s oldest daughter, referred to only as E.D., was nervous going into high school. The parents say they believe the fear and insecurity made her a target for the group.
During her freshmen year, E.D. got very close to Spanish teacher (and defendant) Rebecca Kessler, who took a special interest in E.D. and invited her to meet the other defendants, Spanish teachers Tanya Mastoloni and Christopher Esposito and guidance counselor Laura Sullivan, the lawsuit states. Before long, Mastoloni -- whom the suit states taught "religion and pseudoscience" in the classroom and encouraged students to believe in "superstition and magic" -- was engaging in social activities with E.D. that pushed the boundaries of a student-teacher relationship, the document notes. These activities allegedly included text messaging, meeting for coffee and going off school grounds for lunch.
The Huffington Post reached out to several of the defendants but did not receive an immediate response.
E.D. eventually began distancing herself from family and talking about "seeking the truth," the document notes. When the family confronted E.D. about her behavior, she responded, “You don’t understand the person I have become," the complaint states.
Soon, the family’s middle child, referred to as L.D., started having Mastoloni as a teacher. At first L.D. allegedly cried when she learned that she would have her for class. However, after some time and pressure from E.D., she grew just as devoted as her sister, the document states.
“They became flat and distant, reclusive, secretive, and non-communicative. They lost their humor and their empathy. They began speaking in a bizarre new language. They became unable to think critically or independently. They became dependent on the schoolteachers and guidance counselors who had indoctrinated them,” the suit says.
The complaint states the girls became enamored with “suicidal ideation and martyrdom" and eventually stopped talking to their parents unless they absolutely had to. The daughters ended up together at Wellesley College, where they were still in constant contact with the defendants, the document notes. The sisters frequently went to Alumni Hall, where it was private, and would perform religious dances until early morning hours, according to the complaint.
Before long, the defendants allegedly used E.D. and L.D. to try and indoctrinate the family’s youngest daughter, known as J.D. Only after an emotional confrontation with her parents was J.D. willing to reveal everything that her sisters and the defendants had been doing and pushing on her, the suit states. (J.D. is now joining her parents in the legal battle.)
Armed with this information, the parents confronted their two older daughters. After the argument, the two essentially ran away from home with almost no personal belongings to stay with Mastoloni until housing at Wellesley College opened up, the document states. John and Jane say they have had almost no communication with their daughters since. They allege the defendants are currently bankrolling their daughters’ lives.
The lawsuit, in part, "seeks to hold Avon Public Schools accountable for its failure to properly supervise and control its employees, and for allowing its employees to engage in predatory religious indoctrination in school." The Avon Public Schools superintendent released the following statement about the suit.
“The district administration is in receipt of the complaint filed recently in federal court and is reviewing it at this time. No communications regarding that which is alleged in the complaint have been received in the past,” the statement read. “We will continue to review the content of the complaint and have turned the matter over to our school district legal counsel.”
Wellesley, which the suit says provided E.D. and L.D. with summer housing and did not verify one of the defendant's claims about the girls, was not aware of the situation when contacted by NBC Connecticut but said they are now investigating the issue.
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages, as well as an order for Avon Public Schools to provide faculty and staff with proper training.