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An Update on Alumni Initiatives to Investigate Systemic Failure At HM


 

 

An update on alumni initiatives to investigate systemic failure at Horace Mann

 

While things are quiet here with people away, progress is being made by several ad hoc committees each working to further our understanding, learn the truth and help our community. In concert, many people are contributing their time, resources and money to make certain that the largest concentration of child sexual abuse at a single institution ever can never happen again. Horace Mann has so far ignored its obligation to explain and remedy how and why the abuse continued for so long to so many and has obstructed the efforts of others to repair and heal. It is therefore up to us to join together to end the silence. Here's my understanding of where things stand and what alumni are doing -- a personal letter from camp for your poolside enjoyment:. Please join with your classmates and support a full public accounting. 

The Independent Investigation:

Phase one is complete with organizing what we know so far and some selected initial interviews. What's been collected is in confidence with the team of investigators, though I can say the response from people with vital information has been overwhelming. The team is adjusting its plans to integrate the new information and decide how best to proceed.

-- More than 31 sources have been spoken with at length

-- More than 100 people have reached out by email and phone to speak up

-- The mix includes survivors, parents, teachers, administrators, staff, coaches and alumni

-- Interviews take time and require assembling a great deal of detail. As the numbers indicate, many more meetings are due as the investigators proceed. Those on PHM have had nearly a year's head start to digest all we know. Once the team has reviewed available and new source material, they will expand their follow up.

-- The immediate focus is adding new information where key questions exist, while another part of the team fits together the enormous mosaic already collected. 

-- As you speak with teachers or others who may know something about value, urge them to reach the investigation team. 

The success so far demonstrates people ARE speaking up, despite the school's stated pessimism about the willingness of others and its own refusal to conduct or cooperate with an inquiry. Contemporary evidence is being provided and each meeting generates new referrals. 

I'm sorry to see that HM is discouraging some sources not affiliated with the school now from being forthcoming. But the story is going to come out over time, so people will have to decide if they want to be part of a cover up or stand up and speak out.

Some surprising misconceptions have been used to undermine the truth and they need debunking:

-- No one is making money doing this. All the professionals who are helping have agreed to tiny fees vs. what they would ordinarily receive. Why? Because they see the report and findings as the right thing to do. No one is running for any office. The investigation is in no way connected with any lawsuit or civil action. It was not initiated until after the mediation was over. 

-- HMAC is distinct and separate from the Survivors group. We have called for acknowledgement, apology and an investigation since the beginning. While we try to coordinate our efforts, our organizations are different and we have not spoken with victims’ lawyers or representatives.

-- The focus of the investigation is not blame -- it's how and why the school permitted the abuse for so long.

-- HM has said they were unaware, despite more than 21 reports of abuse they received directly.

-- HM has said it has no records, despite published accounts of files handed down to headmasters, eye witnesses who have seen files, meetings being held based on files and recent accounts.

Interest in the report's findings and recommendations by other schools:

Organizations throughout the country are watching what we do. We've had a large number of requests from schools and other institutions who have asked to be kept informed and want to read the findings. In fact, the majority of the 1,700 schools affiliated through NAIS will read it, along with all local private and public schools, along with many churches, synagogues, neighborhood houses and youth-related organizations. 

We've sent a reply letter to Institutions to sign up for the report and provide links, emails and contacts including a form for suggesting advice, recommendations and assistance. I'll make it available here shortly so alumni can involve organizations they are affiliated with. Realize that printing and distribution entails costs. While many of the resources to get this done are provided pro bono or "low bono," some costs cannot be defrayed. We'll need donations and support from everyone who wants to know what happened and with your help, this unprecedented effort will guide the prevention of abuse for current and future students.

Beyond the alumni-sponsored investigation: 

A wide array of supporters have contacted us and offered to do what they can: Authors, reporters, investigative journalists, network producers, national advocates and experts, leaders at other schools, lawyers, lawmakers, doctors, counselors, internet server administrators, social media programmers, data mining analysts, and elected representatives. HMAC has been coordinating with all interested parties. Every supporter has brought his or her own expertise and network to bear on getting to the root of this issue and we are grateful for the response.

It's not just about Horace Mann -- it's about ending the endemic institutional failure that allows, enables and even participates in child sexual abuse. 

Your own expertise, advice and thinking are useful. Contact HMAC and help out. 

Other cooperative efforts:

People have taken action to reach authorities and the public about what we know so far.

-- Some have contacted the New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, citing examples of fiduciary breach and obstruction by the HM Board of Trustees. 

-- Alumni have spoken with elected officials and helped support the Child Victims Act in the NY Legislature sponsored by Rep. Markey. You can reach Mike Armstrong at Markey's office at armmic@earthlink.net and 718-651-3185.

-- HMAC thanks Sue Todd for providing her expertise to help education parents, students and all of us. See our website's educational arm for videos and links. Preventing abuse is bigger than HM. 

-- Several alumni will be speaking at the conference Jetta Bernier has assembled for Nov. 19th in Framingham, MA. Thank you for the support and ongoing work with victims and institutions who understand.

-- Students who left HM before graduation are being contacted in order to provide information and reply to anyone who may not have access to PHM or other sources. 

-- My deep appreciation to our schoolmate survivors who have come forward to break the school's silence and educate me and many about the realities of abuse. They deserve our solidarity, persistence and dedication to a full accounting to heal and reconcile our divided community.

-- To the many survivors at other schools who have joined us to seek justice -- at Yeshiva, Deerfield, BB&N, Landmark, Poly Prep and more -- we are all better for your courage and we welcome an alliance. 

Upcoming issues: 

-- How do alumni want to meet during the fall reunions to discuss the numerous unresolved questions either with each other or with the HM administration ?

-- What should take place at Homecoming?

Funding:

Because the investigation is independent of the school or other sponsorship, we are particularly dependent on and appreciative of your interest, support, guidance and input. I thank each of you who so far has contributed to get us launched, though what will be needed to complete the work is more.

We have set up plans through several channels for funding: 1) an appeal to the public soon, featuring a short video along with a summary of what we know so far, with 2) an email to alumni detailing the investigation and report goals, and 3) progress reports here on PHM and 4) several face to face meetings with alumni who can help.

If you want to know what happened and insure that others can as well, make a contribution and also encourage your friends and classmates. Matching funds are provided by many organizations as well. The truth depends on us.

Supporting the investigation and report is simple. Checks are made payable to our fiscal sponsor, FJC. The name of our account, HM Action Coalition must be referenced in either the memo line of the check or the document accompanying the contribution. FJC's mailing address is 520 Eighth Ave., 20th Floor, New York, NY 10018. Please send us your email address to receive updates at hmactioncoalition@gmail.com

Horace Mann can still decide to cooperate with the independent investigation and it should. The school’s reputation continues to suffer in part from a steady drip of revelations in the press but much more from the way the administration is responding and the cloud of suspicion about what else remains hidden. Trustees’ resistance devalues the quality and prestige of a Horace Mann diploma, causing fiduciary harm to the school. This will only get worse with time, silence and stonewalling. 

How is Horace Mann’s unwillingness openly to address the sexual abuse committed by its teachers and top administrators and fracturing its own community to preserve its silence helping current students in any way?

- More than 600 sexual abuse incidents

- More than 77 accounts known so far

- 62 student victims

- 22 teacher-abusers

- 12 facilitators in the administration

- 4 headmasters aware of abuse

- No reports of abuse were made public by HM or reported to the DA or authorities at the time.

- Over 70 accounts have been uncovered by alumni since June, 2012 and reported to the Bronx DA.

Even despite receiving reports of abuse, HM did NOT…

- Investigate or document accounts

- Search for other victims

- Counsel or inquire about victims

- Alert students or parents

- Alert the DA or police

- Confront abusers and prevent further abuse

- Alert schools where abusers moved on to teach

- Offer emerging victims any resources beyond the DA's phone number

- Offer current students any resources for sexual abuse on its web site 

- Allow NYSPCC to learn how abuse continued for so long and install a fitting remedy

- Follow its own stated policies when recent accounts were revealed (2007, 2011, 2012)

 

Information and Help:

-- Most information is housed on the public HMAC website at http://www.hmactioncoalition.org/

-- To offer your time or resources to help, http://www.hmactioncoalition.org/contact/

-- News articles and press: http://www.hmactioncoalition.org/blog/

 

Please reach me at any time with questions or comments at my personal address: aha.org@gmail.com

 

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BOSTON GLOBE: What happened at Deerfield



What happened at Deerfield

I was a teenager at the elite boarding school in the 1980s. He was my teacher, coach, and dorm parent. He was also a sexual predator.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” once wrote the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. I suppose in that sense my life may really just be starting now, at 48. For nearly three decades, I chose to remain largely silent about events dating back to my adolescence, but in June 2012, I wrote Deerfield Academy’s head of school, Margarita Curtis, disclosing that a venerated faculty member had sexually abused me during my senior year at the elite Western Massachusetts boarding school in the winter of 1983. It was a hard letter to write, and I imagine it was difficult to read, but the things I spoke of needed to be said, and said by me.

“I have not ever named the teacher, coach and dorm master who molested me,” I wrote in that e-mail. “But when I see the photos of returning alums at reunions being led in joyous song by the much-beloved ‘Czar,’ Peter Hindle, the same man who molested me as a Deerfield student living on his corridor, I feel a measure of sadness and chagrin.”

Now 78 and living in South Dartmouth, Hindle graduated from Deerfield in 1952, before heading to nearby Amherst College, where he earned a degree in math four years later. He then joined the Deerfield faculty and became a revered campus figure during his 44-year career, receiving praise from a reigning monarch — King Abdullah II of Jordan, class of ’80 — in a commencement speech upon Hindle’s retirement in June 2000. Hindle’s regal nickname originated from his role as major-domo of the soccer program. Clutching a well-worn clipboard and shiny whistle and decked out even on warm Indian summer afternoons in a pine-green windbreaker with CZAR emblazoned on the back, he made his daily rounds of the soccer fields that dotted the lower level of the campus.

For years I had hesitated to speak up because of my own shame and embarrassment about the abuse I had suffered, the concern that I might not be believed, and the potential for significant pushback from a legion of Hindle admirers. Whatever anger and outrage I may have felt had been largely pushed down inside, leaving me melancholy and often depressed. I had written to the school’s previous headmaster, Eric Widmer, in March 2004, detailing a pervasive culture of student bullying and the sexual abuse I had suffered at the hands of a faculty member, without naming Hindle. Widmer responded sympathetically but didn’t press for additional details. Another decade passed.

 

Reading a steady drumbeat of abuse stories involving the Catholic Church, Penn State, and other elite private schools eventually convinced me to give a full accounting of what had transpired, primarily for my own peace of mind, but also perhaps for other potential victims of Hindle’s. Before sending the e-mail, I paused to consider whether I was ready to live with the consequences. I kept returning to the idea that I had two good reasons to come forward: I knew that what had taken place was wrong, and I knew that the truth was with me.



http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2013/07/20/the-former-deerfield-academy-student-making-sex-abuse-allegations-comes-forward/U5kfi3aik8LGVaHy3h9zmN/story.html


RIVERDALE PRESS: Grappling With Abuse Reporting


Grappling with abuse reporting, by the book By Sarina Trangle
Posted 7/4/13
The sex abuse scandal that has shaken the Horace Mann School has also brought additional scrutiny to the school’s handbook, particularly the section on reporting abuse to authorities. 



NY TIMES: Yeshiva Chancellor Apologizes for Sex Abuse Scandal


Yeshiva University Chancellor Apologizes for Sexual Abuse Scandal By ARIEL KAMINER Published: July 1, 2013
In an emotional letter on Monday announcing his retirement after more than 60 years at Yeshiva University, its chancellor, Norman Lamm, apologized for not responding more assertively when students at Yeshiva University High School for Boys said that two rabbis there had sexually abused them.



COMMENTARY: Ben Field


I wrote the following in a Facebook Group, Processing Horace Mann, as my response to those who suggest generally that alumni should 'move on' and more specifically that alumni who continue to seek to address the history of sexual abuse at Horace Mann and the School's present day response to it need to 'get over it', let go of their anger, and let the School alone.



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