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Judge Snyder To Conduct Independent Investigation

posted by HM Action at 2013-04-22 08:10:00

Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder to conduct independent investigation into sexual abuse at the Horace Mann School


For release on April 22, 2013

The Horace Mann Action Coalition Support Fund, Inc. is pleased to announce that it has retained Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder to supervise an independent investigation into the sexual abuse that occurred at the Horace Mann School over several decades. A graduate of Radcliffe and Case Western Reserve Law School, Judge Snyder worked in the New York criminal justice system for over thirty-five years, both as a prosecutor and as a judge. She founded and led the Manhattan Sex Crimes Prosecution Bureau, which was the first in the nation, and co-authored New York State's Rape Shield Law.

“Our investigation will seek to determine the scope of this abuse and to identify whether persons in authority responded appropriately to it and, if not, to determine why not. We will review the past policies of the school concerning charges of sexual abuse and its current policies in order to recommend changes where appropriate, including procedures which will include an outside independent monitor or panel to review all such charges. Our conclusions and recommendations will be made public in the report we will issue at the end of our investigation,” says Judge Snyder.

“We seek and welcome the cooperation and input of the Horace Mann School, its alumni, faculty, staff and administrators, past and present, in order to ensure that the tragic acts that occurred will never be repeated. There is nothing more important or more sacred than the safety of our children.  The incidence of sexual abuse against children in our country, schools and institutions has reached near epidemic proportions.  Such conduct can never be tolerated. The over-riding goal of our investigation is to ensure that it isn’t.”

Judge Snyder has received many awards, including The Hogan-Morgenthau Award, The Florence Allen Award, The Radcliffe College Distinguished Alumnae Award, The Abraham House 'Justice and Compassion Award' and The Frank S. Hogan Associates Award. In 2007 she received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in recognition of her achievements in the field of criminal justice.

The sexual abuse was first revealed in a June 2012 New York Times Magazine article, “Prep-School Predators: The Horace Mann School’s Secret History of Sexual Abuse,” written by Amos Kamil (an alum). The discussion following Kamil’s article yielded more information about the scope and depth of sexual abuse at the school. It is currently estimated that over a dozen male and female teachers and administrators abused more than three dozen male and female students. An April 2013 New Yorker article, “The Master,” by Marc Fisher (also an alum) provided an in-depth description of how Robert Berman, an English teacher at the school, abused boys and young men during the years he taught at Horace Mann.

Both articles enumerated several occasions when the sexual abuse was brought to the attention of teachers, administrators and members of the board of trustees. HM authorities received at least fifteen reports of abuse, but apparently took little or no action against most of the predator teachers. Nor does it appear that the school reported the abuse to the police or other authorities.  Even now, HM has not undertaken a public investigation into the root causes of abuse at the school.

As The Riverdale Press has editorialized, “The school’s reaction to the series of bombshell allegations of sexual abuse is a signal to current students that reports will not be taken seriously.” The question of why little, if anything, was done to stop the abuse is at the center of Judge Snyder’s investigation.

When accusations of sexual abuse are made, the standard operating procedure at institutions, whether educational or not, is to conduct a prompt and independent investigation. Even Horace Mann’s own Alumni Council has called upon the school to engage in a public and transparent investigation.  Because Horace Mann has refused to do so, the Horace Mann Action Coalition is launching its own investigation, with the goal of producing a full account of how so many children were allowed to be sexually abused by so many adults over so many years.

Our investigation will meet the following five (5) principles, which should be present in any truly independent investigation into institutional child sexual abuse:
1.       Independent:  The investigators must be free of institutional control over the scope, purpose, data, conclusions and recommendations that result from the investigation.
2.       Transparent:  All aspects of the investigation must be publicly available, including the underlying data and as the final conclusions and recommendations.
3.       Comprehensive:  The investigation must consider all the facts related to the abuse, including any internal employment, evaluation, and other data held only by the school. The investigation must engage survivors and alumni, past and current teachers, and administrators and school staff to determine the root causes of abuse.
4.       Constructive: The investigation must have the dual purposes of (1) developing Horace Mann-specific recommendations and changes in protocol to address the needs of  current and future students; and (2) uncovering and identifying the causes of past abuse so that alumni and survivors can receive the decades overdue explanation of how the abuse was allowed to occur.
5.       Timely: An independent investigation must happen now.  This scandal should not be prolonged further – not for the school, not for current students and parents, and not for the survivors who have suffered in silence since they were children.  Delay and avoidance of the truth has been the HM way for too long.

For information contact Robert Boynton, robert.boynton@nyu.edu

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posted at: 2013-04-22 08:10:00, last updated: 2013-04-22 08:11:41



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