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RIVERDALE PRESS: Report Says Abuse Was Widespread

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&




SNAP: How to React When Abuse Reports Surface

Jun 01, 2015 | Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

Guest Blog: SNAP Update, How to React When Abuse Reports Surface

It’s a bit lonely – and unsettling – when it seems like you’re the only one pushing for a particular idea.

That’s how we in SNAP feel about a specific type of training that we’ve long advocated. We’re convinced it could really help prevent child sex crimes and cover ups in institutional settings.

Some institutional officials train their staff in how to RECOGNIZE possible signs of abuse. That’s great.

Some institutional officials train their staff in how to REPORT possible signs of abuse. That’s great too.

Other institutional officials train their members – especially kids – in how to RESIST abuse. And that’s great as well.

But as best we can tell, no institution – no school, church, summer camp, athletic league or day care center – trains staff and members in how to REACT when abuse reports surface.

So often, those staff and members make hurtful comments, in private or in public.

And as a result, often victims, witnesses and whistleblowers whose information could make criminal prosecution begin or succeed are so scared or depressed that they stay silent instead of speaking up. Rather than encouraging and welcoming messages being sent to those with knowledge or suspicions of child sex crimes, very chilling and depressing messages get sent instead.

We’re not talking here about how the institutional hierarchy should react, but how the institution’s rank-and-file members and supporters should act. Because while it’s important that the few at the top act properly, it’s just as important for the many at the bottom to act properly.

Almost every day, we see some popular or powerful adult accused of victimizing a child. And we see some colleague or neighbor of that alleged predator defending him or her. Often, the defense of the accused involves an attack on the accuser.

That has an incredibly chilling effect on those who could make a real difference in the case.

Sometimes, the colleagues or neighbors are more benign. Over last weekend, for example, politicians of all stripes (most notably Illinois Senator Mark Kirk) told of their “shock” that ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert might have molested a child or two during his teaching and coaching career. “Our hearts go out to Hastert’s family” was a common refrain. But few, if any, voiced any concern for Hastert’s alleged victims.

More often, however, some adults’ comments in abuse cases are downright hateful and hurtful.

–In Richmond Virginia, Rev. Geronimo Aguilar faced seven felony child sex abuse involving two girls. Yet his flock blasted his accusers and six fellow ministers agreed to preach with him in public.

–In Joliet Illinois, Fr. Richard Ross told a newspaper “I don’t have much sympathy for people who somehow couldn’t stop whatever happened. I’ll take all of these people who were abused and I’ll abuse them myself with a baseball bat. You can quote me on that.”

(Ross was upset because his brother, Fr. Anthony J. Ross, had been suspended from his Santa Rosa California parish because of abuse reports. Ironically, Fr. Richard Ross now pastors St. Bernard’s Catholic church in Joliet, about 30 minutes away from Denny Hastert’s hometown.)

Sometimes, an accused offender’s supporters go far beyond hurtful words. They hold fundraisers and rallies and set up blogs and legal defense funds for alleged child molesters.

–In the Springfield Illinois diocese, parishioners of a permanently suspended, credibly accused child molesting priest are buying him a house. They’ve put up yellow ribbons around town showing their love of Fr. Robert “Bud” DeGrand. The local bishop, Thomas Paprocki, is paying for the alleged predator’s lawyers. (This is the same Paprocki who made national headlines for claiming that clergy sex abuse lawsuits are “the work of Satan.”)

(In such an oppressive, unwelcoming climate, is it a surprise to anyone that no other victim of Fr. DeGrand has stepped forward?)

—A Texas jury found football player Greg Kelley guilty of molesting a four year old boy. Yet even after that, his fans and friends organized rallies and fundraising events for him.

But misguided backers don’t just rally around predators. They sometimes rally around “enablers” too, even proven ones.

–In Kansas City Missouri, even after Bishop Robert Finn was convicted of withholding evidence of child sex crimes from police, some of his flock publicly defended him. And even after he finally resigned, top Catholic officials in Rome and Washington DC gave him permission to lead two ordination ceremonies.

–And even though Penn State coach Joe Paterno said he wished he’d done more about Jerry Sandusky’s crimes, football fans plan to erect a new statue in Paterno’s honor and a politician proposes naming a bridge after him.

So let’s play this out, in Technicolor detail. Imagine you’re a 13-year-old boy who’s being molested by his coach or a 12 year old girl who’s being molested by her uncle. In each case, the predator tells the child “If you speak up, no one will listen or believe you. I’m a popular person around here. Everyone will think you’re lying or crazy.”

Then, that boy or girl sees news accounts or overhears watercooler conversations about an unrelated abuse case involving a cleric or teacher. That child sees, with dismay, that other trusted adults (maybe even their own parents) are vigorously backing the accused predator.

Imagine how that boy or girl will feel. It’s very unlikely that this boy or girl will be brave enough to call the police or tell their parents about their own suffering.

So what to do if you think your co-worker or cousin or cleric or coach may have been falsely accused? Support him or her privately, not publicly. Send the accused cookies or cards. Visit or pray for him or her. But don’t tell a TV reporter “This is a shake-down by a greedy liar!” Don’t stand up at the school board meeting and declare “I hope Coach Smith sues this kid and his parents for slander!”

Fundamentally, it’s very simple: we can make it harder or easier for child sex abuse victims to report abusers. All it takes is a little bit of sensitivity and self-restraint.

And institutions where abuse happens can remind us of this, train us to do this, insist we do this and even punish us when we don’t.


—Barbara Dorris of St. Louis is the Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. She can be reached at or 314 503 0003.


Kevin Mulhearn: Horace Mann report shows why New York state needs to reform statute of limitations in sex abuse cases
BY MICHAEL O'KEEFFE    NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Tuesday, June 2, 2015, 3:46 PM