High School Sexical

Was Andrew Foster's drama club a clique for creative students — or a cult?

According to police reports, the drama group was so tightly knit that numerous students preferred to stay at school rather than come home in the afternoons. One mom, Marcie Tannous, thought "something might be going on with Foster and her son," so she started volunteering to keep an eye on things. Soon enough, she adored the teacher as much as the kids did. She learned to sew so she could make costumes.

In retrospect, it would be easy to find symbolism in the school's drama productions. The theater department staged Fame, about starry-eyed kids at a performing arts high school. The students put on Peter Pan, about a boy who never grew up and spent all his time with the Lost Boys.

Although Foster supervised hundreds of students, there were apparently a dozen or so with whom he was especially close.

Palm Beach Post/ZUMA Press

Some of these students belong to MySpace groups called "Acting Cheifs" [sic] (the Santaluces mascot is a chief) and "Santaluces HS Drama Elite." One student's MySpace page has photos of the group, piled on top of one another in a giant cuddle puddle. "We pile up a lot!" a friend comments. Police say Foster forbade them from dating one another, though.

Two former students, now college freshmen, were featured in the Palm Beach Post when they graduated. Each girl chose Foster as her "personal hero." One would later write to Foster in jail, "I just feel like there is so much love that a few of us have shown for each other that is just almost abnormal in everyday life. To have this realization of who our real friends are and to see how much we truly are there and care for each other. Everyone is here for and striving for everyone else. I think that's ridiculously awesome."

The students took trips with Foster to the Florida Keys, Puerto Rico, and Orlando. A student who joined one of the adventures said the trips were not school-sanctioned but that parents knew about them. Sometimes, a parent came along. The group would split hotel rooms between boys and girls. They did "normal vacation things": canoeing, swimming, caving, shopping. "It didn't seem like anything [illicit] went on," the student says.

Foster seemed to treat the teenagers as his peers. He sometimes crashed at their houses and loaned them his car. If he had friends his own age, there is little evidence of them in court documents. (His parents and other adults who knew him either could not be located or declined to contribute to this story.)

Students came to cheer Foster on at his softball games at John Prince Park, where he played on a team called the Whack-Its. Sometimes they'd ride in Foster's 2002 gold Pontiac Grand Am.

And sometimes they hung out at Foster's apartment with no other adults around.

At Goshen College, in Goshen, Indiana, Andrew Foster played baseball, sang in the choir, and took classes in biblical literature and youth ministry. He spent a semester abroad in the Dominican Republic and worked for a local parks department before landing a teaching job at Washington High School in South Bend.

He seemed exactly the sort of upstanding and well-rounded person the Palm Beach County School Board wanted to recruit. In 2004, Foster headed south to accept a position as the drama teacher at Santaluces, where he would eventually earn $33,494 a year.

Documents released by the State Attorney's Office include notes between Foster and the girl he allegedly impregnated, identified in court documents only by her initials, D.N. The girl's diary is also part of the evidence, as are letters sent to and from Foster from jail. Depending on one's interpretation, the documents either highlight Foster's warm and caring personality, or they show how a sexual abuser operates.

The writings chronicle an up-and-down relationship that, according to D.N.'s diary, started on June 6, 2006, when Foster gave her some driving lessons. The two ended up walking on the beach and skipping rocks on the water.

On June 27, she wrote, "I had my first kiss today!" followed by a smiley face. The day concluded with a "3 hr. makeout session." The danger of it , she wrote, turned her on. "I just pray that it won't go farther and that we can control ourselves. Please Lord be with me on this and help me because I truly am happy!"

One day, D.N. wrote, Foster "asked me to be his girlfriend." She noted "age is just a number" but also acknowledged being "scared for all he and I are risking."

A note from Foster begins with the headline, "READ THEN BURN!!": "Please know you are so much more than the 'stupid girl' you think you might be," he wrote. "This is for real and you are an incredible person." According to the documents, Foster said he would try not to curse in D.N.'s presence. One time he came over to watch the movie 13 Going on 30. D.N. liked his muscles, his tattoos, and his funny eyebrow.

When talk apparently turned to sex, Foster wrote in a note, "I very much grew up in an unhealthy environment without much guidance. Again, not that those are excuses for wrong decisions but in a time when everyone's 'doing it,' it seemed like the thing to do. I unfortunately got acquainted with all this at an early age and had nobody telling me I was wrong." He continues, "I want your 1sts to be my firsts and I am excited about renewing all my 1sts with you as we begin to make all of these things our lasts and only. You are my one and only and you will continue to be until my last breath. I love you!!"

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