Michelle and Jon Heinemann are suing Cathedral School of St. John the Divine in New York City, alleging that Ann LaForge rigged an auction forcing them to pay $50,000 for a 30×30 inch painting created by kindergarteners.

The lawsuit, filed on June 26 by the parents, alleges the $38,425-a-year school swindled the couple during its annual silent auction held on March 1. The Heinemanns  allegedly gave the school permission to bid as their proxy in order purchase a kindergarten class painting at the event.

Ann LaForge formerly the Assistant Head of The Kew-Forest School in Forest Hills, instructed Ms. Bryant, the first-grade teacher, to use the automatic bidding of the BidPal system to raise the price of the Artwork.

The artwork contained “traced-and-cut-out paper hands of the Heinemann’s son 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.

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.

The Heinemanns are asking for damages of $415,900, plus interest, according to the court documents. However, they’re willing to drop the suit if the school fires Ms. Ann LaForge and Ms. Bryant.

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.”

Meanwhile the school now names Jennifer Rhodes as the Director of Institutional Advancement.