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RIVERDALE PRESS: Report Says Abuse Was Widespread

posted by HM Action at 2015-06-04 16:39:00

Report says abuse was widespread

By Nic Cavell
The Horace Mann upper campus entrance in April of this year.
Adrian Fussell / The Riverdale Press
The Horace Mann upper campus entrance in April of this year.

Activists seeking justice for victims of sexual abuse at Horace Mann School renewed their efforts with the release of a new report last week.

The document outlined cases of 64 students who were allegedly abused between 1962 and 1998.

Organizers said the goal of their 127-page report, called “Making School Safe,” was to present a case study of the Horace Mann abuse so others can learn from the experience.

The group hired a retired judge, Leslie Crocker Snyder, to investigate the abuse. While Horace Mann, which did not participate in the investigation, is believed to have settled with about 30 abuse survivors, the report mentions dozens of previusly undocumented cases.

Peter Brooks, one of the leading organizers, said four new cases came to light within about the past month.

“In my career as a prosecutor in sex crimes and as a judge, I have seen some truly horrible things,” said Ms. Snyder. “But this is in a different category. This is about a large number of young boys traumatized by a school with an ugly motivation… to protect its image.”

Many victims settled with the school because their experiences did not come to light until 2012 — long after the state statute of limitations for prosecuting child sex abuse had passed.

It was not immediately clear what action, if any, the more than 30 alleged victims mentioned in the report who did not settle with the school might take.

Following the report’s May 26 release, Horace Mann issued a statement saying, “We will closely read the [Horace Mann Action Coalition’s] report and make any appropriate adjustments in our child safety policies that it has to offer.”

However, Ms. Snyder, who previously founded and led the Manhattan District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Prosecution Bureau said the school’s attitude toward her work was “highly offensive.” She said during the course of her two-year-long investigation, administrators forwarded her requests to interview school officials and faculty to lawyers, and that she ended up with “absolutely no access to the school.”

The report’s narrative of abuse draws on media accounts in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Riverdale Press and other publications.

Marc Fisher, a Horace Mann graduate who wrote a 2013 New Yorker article centering on Robert Berman — a teacher accused of widespread abuse — said, “I think the most important thing that this report shows is the gaps in the narrative that continues to be provided by the school.”

Mr. Fisher, currently an editor at The Washington Post, noted that many details in the report were previously confined to confidential Facebook groups for Horace Mann graduates and survivors of alleged abuse.

The journalist, who sits on the board of the Inspired Teaching Charter School in Washington, D.C. and previously was a board member of the Georgetown Day School, said that he had already forwarded the report to officials at each school. In informal conversations, the officials received the report “eagerly,” Mr. Fisher said.

“What everyone’s getting out of this report is that it’s largely inexplicable — why the school’s response is so out of step with other schools’ best practices,” he said. “They’re asking, ‘What did Horace Mann do [at the time of the first revelations of the abuse], so we can do the opposite.”,57122?page=1&




posted at: 2015-06-04 16:39:00, last updated: 2015-06-04 16:40:41

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