A nationally-known cult has moved into the Truckee Meadows. The Washoe County Superintendent's office has confirmed that an alleged member of "The Gentle Wind Project" is teaching at a middle school in Sparks. Parents say it's Mendive Middle School
The group has been around since the 1970's, but they're just coming to light here in our area. Local police got word of the cult organization through an anonymous out of state phone call.
"Well as I was speaking to her, she sounded like she had a lot of information, like there was something there. I did a lot of research and was able to verify a lot of what she was saying," said Detective Paul Villa.
The caller told Villa about some possible cult affiliation in our local schools...so he contacted the district to find out.
"I spoke to a detective there and he said yeah, coincidentally we just had a report about this. He said I will look into it and I will get back to you."
Villa did a little research on his own ... and was astonished by what he found.
"If you google 'the Gentle Wind Project,' you are going to get over a million hits."
Lawsuits, allegations about misconduct, and dozens of news stories about the group...most of them calling it a cult...and many people warning others to stay away. Detective Villa says the group members claim to be spiritual healers...selling things like magical hockey pucks and wands that are supposed to provide a "cure" for all of life's problems.
"They make claims about scientific abilities of these products, yet they provide no science."
Another website called "Winds of Changes" is run by those who used to be in the cult, but got out. Recovering members report forms of brainwashing, among other things.
"It talks in there about what they call ritual sex, and not just sex, but ritual behavior dress codes, behavior modifications, practiced by the members."
Inappropriate activity that police say doesn't belong in our schools. We spoke with Steve Mulvenon from the Washoe County School District. He says in no way does the superintendent condone alternative teaching methods from suspicious groups, but in the case of the Sparks teacher, he doesn't see anything wrong.
"The teacher uses some materials from the program to help her students calm down, much the same way as an elementary school teacher might give a kid a Nerf ball and say it has magical powers, like 'okay, sit here, hold this ball and be quiet.'"
Mulvenon says the principal of the school is also aware of the teacher's methods...but so far, she hasn't crossed any lines.
"I don't want to rush to judgement. We need to continue to do research and find out more about it."
The number of members in the cult here locally is unknown, as is their whereabouts. They list a local number, but when you call...all you get is a recording. We left a message, but no one has yet returned our call.
They don't give an address either...only a PO Box number in Sparks, leaving police and school officials to wonder just what they're hiding.
The Gentle Wind Project has already been shut down in at least two states, including Hawaii and Maine, as a result of lawsuits filed by their Attorney Generals.
Police want to warn people this group is out there and to beware. Before you buy any "healing" type products, or become a member of any groups, be sure to do a little research...and if something doesn't seem right, call the police.