posted by HM Action at 2013-05-25 14:55:00
Horace Mann Apologizes for Abuse
Top Horace Mann officials acknowledged decades of sexual abuse at the exclusive private school for the first time on Friday, apologizing for "unconscionable betrayals of trust" but stopping short of authorizing an independent investigation.
In a letter posted to the school's website, Horace Mann officials said 31 alumni had described to a mediator "in painful detail" abuse that happened between 17 and 51 years ago.
"It is clear that between 1962 and 1996, former teachers and administrators in fact did abuse, in various degrees, students at Horace Mann School," said the letter, signed by Steven Friedman, chairman of the board of trustees, and Head of School Thomas Kelly. "We sincerely apologize for the harm that was caused by the teachers and administrators who abused anyone during their years at Horace Mann School."
The letter also thanked the allegedly abused students for "having the courage to come forward." The stories of abuse tumbled into the public eye last June in a New York Times Magazine story. There, and in other publications, former students have alleged lengthy relationships with staff members, who have since played down or denied those claims. Some of the alleged abusers are dead.
Previously, Mr. Friedman had expressed "pain and regret for anyone who reports to have been harmed while a student."
In April, the Bronx district attorney's office released the results of a 10-month investigation that found a "systematic pattern of alleged abuse" by a dozen people who allegedly targeted students.
"We investigated the allegations with an eye toward uncovering potential criminal conduct that we could prosecute," said Steven Reed, a spokesman for the Bronx district attorney. "Unfortunately, there was no evidence of any illegal conduct occurring within the statute of limitations."
Joseph Cumming, one of the former students who brought allegations of abuse to the school, said he appreciated the school's actions and apologies but was disappointed there wouldn't be an investigation that could point to the school's failings and exonerate former trustees who did the right thing.
"The school is effectively saying no to our primary request," Mr. Cumming said.
A spokesman for the school declined to comment when asked about Mr. Cumming's request.
Former students who said they were abused by teachers and top administrators had said they wanted the school to take several actions, such as opening an investigation, forcing the resignation of some trustees and a apology. Twenty six of the former students have settled with the school.
Lawyer Gloria Allred, who is representing 25 of the alleged abuse victims, called the school's response "callous."
The Horace Mann letter also described the school's efforts in a mediation process but added that "the survivors' legal claims for financial compensation were barred by New York state's civil statute of limitations."
The allegations renewed calls to eliminate the statute of limitations on abuse cases, as well as a push to close a loophole that requires private schools to report suspected abuse by parents but not teachers.
In the letter, Horace Mann officials also said they would eliminate the position of trustee emeritus at the end of June, which would strip 27 people of their titles. That seemed to answer a demand by the alleged victims to remove several trustees who had been accused of ignoring claims of abuse.
A mediation firm, Commonwealth Mediation, will release a report detailing the abuse described by 31 alumni, the letter said. One additional alleged victim has sued in New Jersey and wasn't part of the mediation.
contributed to this article.
Write to Lisa Fleisher at firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this article appeared May 25, 2013, on page A15 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Horace Mann Apologizes For Abuse.
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