Family sues teachers over cult allegations

Laura Sullivan, one of those named in the Avon High School cult lawsuit.

AVON, Conn. (AP/WTNH) — A Connecticut couple is suing their local school system and four staff members for allegedly indoctrinating their three daughters into a religious cult.

The couple filed the lawsuit in federal court Monday against the Avon school district, three teachers and a guidance counselor at Avon High School and Wellesley College in Massachusetts. The parents are known only in court documents as Jane and John Doe.

The couple says the teachers and counselor indoctrinated their daughters into a cult that promotes martyrdom and celebrates death. They say the indoctrination by the teachers continued when two of the girls went to Wellesley.

According to the complaint:

All three girls experienced sudden and severe personality changes. 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.

The two older girls, ages 22 and 19, are students at Wellesley College and now live separately from the family. The youngest, at 16, joined her parents in the lawsuit. The complaint alleges that the 16-year-old “eventually broke free” from the cult.

Avon and Wellesley officials say they’re looking into the allegations. Avon Public Schools released this statement:

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. We will continue to review the content of the complaint and have turned the matter over to our school district legal counsel

Meanwhile, former students of one of the teachers named in the lawsuit say they can’t believe the alarming accusations.

“Kessler was always fair, always kind, always took the time out to give extra help to students,” Brian Mecca said of Rebecca Kessler, a Spanish teacher at Avon High School.

“Nothing strange at all, she was a great teacher,” added Evan Salzer, of Kessler. “I really enjoyed her class.”

Joining Kessler as defendants in the lawsuit are current Spanish teacher Tanya Mastoloni, former Spanish teacher Chistopher Esposito and current guidance counselor Laura Sullivan.

Brian Hite has a child at Avon High School.

“The glass is half-full and it’s not anything you can judge in the moment,” Hite said. “The validity of it is, if it happened, I don’t like it.”

News 8’s Jocelyn Maminta contributed to this report.

Embedded below is a PDF of the complaint. It may take a few moments to load.

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