Lawsuit claims teachers indoctrinated teens into religious cult

Posted at 3:22 PM, May 23, 2014

By Rande Iaboni and Artemis Moshtaghian


(CNN) — A Connecticut family has filed a lawsuit claiming a public school district, a trio of high school teachers and others engaged in a “predatory religious indoctrination” that left their daughters speaking a “bizarre new language.”

The 64-page federal lawsuit, which does not name the young women or their parents, claims three sisters attending Avon High School were targeted and indoctrinated without the knowledge or consent of their parents.

Two of the girls, now 22 and 19 years old, experienced sudden and severe personality changes, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

“They lost their humor and their empathy,” the family claims in court documents. “They began speaking in a bizarre new language.”

The alleged religious cult promoted martyrdom and celebrated death, causing the eldest sisters to “experience fantasies of suicidal ideation and martyrdom,” according to the lawsuit.

The youngest daughter, who is 16, also was allegedly targeted by the cult but “eventually broke free.”

The documents name three teachers and a guidance counselor as “predators” acting on behalf of the cult but also seeks to hold Avon Public Schools accountable for allegedly failing to properly supervise and control its employees.

One defendant declined comment while another did not return calls. Two others could not be reached.

Avon Public Schools said: “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.”

Wellesley College is also named as a defendant for its alleged role in allowing the teachers and guidance counselor to maintain contact with the girls after high school. The college said it was preparing a statement.

The lawsuit claims the girls “would frequently go to Alumni Hall, where it was desolate and they would dance, sing and perform ‘whirling dervishes’ — religious dances — until the wee hours of the morning.”

The eldest daughters have cut off communication with the rest of their family as well as their friends, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and changes in school policy.