AVON, Conn. — The parents of three Connecticut girls have filed a lawsuit against their local school district, high school and several teachers over claims that their daughters were lured into a “bizarre” death cult without the family’s knowledge or consent.
“All three girls experienced sudden and severe personality changes,” the lawsuit, filed by the unidentified parents, states. “They became flat and distant, reclusive, secretive, and non-communicative.”
The suit, however, does identify the teachers accused of luring their children into the cult. Avon High School Spanish teachers Tanya Mastoloni, Rebecca Kessler and Christopher Esposito are named as defendants, as well as guidance counselor Laura Sullivan. The parents state that the defendants “taught students to believe in superstition, magic and a non-scientific, anti-intellectual world view.”
“They lost their humor and their empathy,” the lawsuit states. “They began speaking in a bizarre new language. They became unable to think critically or independently. They became dependent on the school teachers and guidance counselor who had indoctrinated them.”
The parents explained that the teachers carried on a relationship with their children outside of class, texting them and inviting them to events or to meet new people.
They outlined that their daughters, now ages 22, 19 and 16, soon stopped speaking with them and rather became enthralled with thoughts of martyrdom and suicide. They said that they were not aware that they had been lured to join the cult until their 16-year-old daughter broke free and explained the situation.
“[The girls] would spend all of their time on their laptops or reading astrology or mysticism materials,” the lawsuit stated, adding that when the youngest daughter turned from the alleged cult, her sisters “ignored her and at times would make hurtful comments to her.” The two eldest daughters eventually left home.
“When confronted by her family about her disturbing behavior, [one of the girls] gave a pat answer, ‘You don’t understand the person I have become,'” the suit outlined.
The parents said that the teachers also then began to “harass” their youngest daughter for rejecting their religious advances.
“[T]he practice of Defendants Mastoloni, Kessler, Esposito, and Sullivan of indoctrinating students with religion, and harassing students under their care, and retaliating against students under their care who reject their religion, and the failure of Defendant Avon Public Schools to prevent such conduct with proper training and supervision of its employees, poses an imminent harm to the students at the school, and their parents, all of whom constitute identifiable victims,” the lawsuit reads.
Wellesley College is also named in the suit for failure to protect two of the girls from the teachers as the relationship continued upon graduation from high school.
The parents are asking the court to order the school district to ensure that teachers are not allowed to indoctrinate students with their particular beliefs and that it supervise employees to guard against practices of “predatory alienation” of students from their families.
The superintendent of the Avon School District says that the lawsuit is the first time that he has heard of the complaint and is looking into the matter.