Original Survivors’ Letter

June 21, 2012

To:
Dr. Kelly, the Board of Trustees, and our many beloved friends in the Horace Mann community

From:
A group of survivors of sexual abuse by Horace Mann teachers and staff

We have been deeply moved by the outpouring of love, concern and solidarity expressed by many in our community since the publication of the New York Times Magazine article about sexual abuse at Horace Mann. We wish to express our thanks to all who have expressed compassion and caring toward us. We have tried not to be hurt by certain comments others have made on the internet seeking to blame the victims or to call our integrity, our motives or even our sexuality into question.

We recognize that many of our fellow-alumni who were not themselves sexually abused, and who were unaware of abuse, have also experienced trauma these last days as you have read just a small part of what was done to us. We recognize that you too are suffering at this time, and we feel that you and we are part of the same community. We are particularly sensitive to those who had no idea that abuse was taking place, and who may have loved and admired the teachers who abused us. We know it must be painful for you to read our stories about the darker side of mentors you admired.

Many people – in Facebook groups, in email conversations, on blogs, etc. – have been suggesting in public and in private what they think we, the survivors of abuse, might want to see happen in the days and weeks ahead. We thought it might serve the community for us to give you an idea of what we ourselves might like to see.

We wish to be clear that this letter is an early draft of a “working document.” We are still in the process of sorting out our own thoughts, and those thoughts are evolving. Additionally, other survivors are contacting us daily, and not all have been able to contribute to this draft. We are in contact with more than twenty survivors so far, and we were able to request input on this letter from eighteen of them, and this document represents our best effort to reflect the concerns that those people have shared with us. Thus, we may revise this document in the coming weeks.

We believe the Horace Mann community has an historic opportunity to show leadership on this issue – to set an example of the right way to handle a crisis of this kind in order to promote healing, reconciliation, justice and truth. We welcome a dialogue with the current Horace Mann administration and Trustees on how to realize these goals.

We believe work must be done in four areas: 1) protecting potential future victims, 2) ensuring “never again” at Horace Mann, 3) healing and assisting past victims based on their legitimate needs, and 4) changing the wider system.

Protecting Potential Future Victims
The New York Times article named three teachers who have all died. Our abusers include several other teachers, some of whom are still alive. We are concerned that these pedophiles may even now be “grooming” other children for similar abuse. Some of you have asked why we did not come forward sooner about this. Several of us did come forward in the past, reporting abuse to the Horace Mann administration and Trustees and/or reporting it to law enforcement, but often we felt our reports fell on deaf ears. Others of us suffered alone for many years, overcome by shame and unable to come forward, not knowing there were others like us. It has taken decades for us to reach the place where we felt able to talk to others about what was done to us. This is common in victims of child sexual abuse.

We ask for the vigorous support of the Horace Mann administration and Trustees and the wider Horace Mann community in helping us prevent these still-living perpetrators from harming any other children as they harmed us. We ask you to help us work with law enforcement to investigate these perpetrators and to ensure that they are removed from contact with children.

Though we may have questions about some of the things Dr. Kelly has done or said on other matters in the past and in the present crisis, we wish to thank him for his strong support in recent days in helping us persuade law enforcement officials to take our concerns seriously and to act on them.

Never Again at Horace Mann
We appreciate the public assurances from the Horace Mann administration and Trustees that Horace Mann has changed greatly since we were abused, and that the school now has policies to ensure that such things will not be repeated. But when these policies were put into place, they were not informed by the experiences that were recently disclosed. We believe Horace Mann can and must do much more to reassure us and the wider community that such things could never again take place at Horace Mann.

We are told that the people who were involved in abuse and the others who failed to act on reports of abuse are now all gone from Horace Mann. This is not true. We believe that several members of the current Board of Trustees were present at a meeting in 1993 with Ben Balter’s mother in which the school refused to take appropriate action on Ben’s letter describing the abuse he suffered. Unless evidence can be presented to contradict this, we request that these Trustees resign or be compelled to resign. Until the Board takes this action regarding its current membership, it is difficult for us to believe that the “old Horace Mann” that enabled abuse no longer exists, nor that the Board of Trustees is dealing with us in good faith.

We are told that Horace Mann now has strong policies in place to ensure that credible allegations of sexual abuse are promptly reported to the authorities. But some of us have in the last several years brought first-hand allegations to the attention of school administrators and Trustees, and we believe they were not dealt with adequately. These include allegations about teachers who are still alive. In another case school resources were used to promote an event to honor publicly a recently deceased abuser, despite a private promise by the school not to do so. Many of us feel strongly that that the names of our abusers should be removed from honor rolls and building plaques on the campus, and that the School should not sponsor or in any way support events in their honor.

We applaud the current administration for its stated determination to conduct a thorough internal investigation now of what happened. In light of what we have noted above, however, we believe that a purely internal investigation is not sufficient to reassure us and the wider Horace Mann community of the administration’s determination to address the situation thoroughly and transparently. We call upon the administration to invite an independent body to conduct a thorough investigation and to give that body the full access needed to conduct a credible investigation of what happened, of who knew what when, and of what was or was not done about it. Such an investigation would reassure us and the wider Horace Mann community of the administration’s determination to deal transparently with this crisis and to do all that is necessary to ensure that the climate which enabled abuse in the past can never again thrive at Horace Mann. Such investigations would do much to restore the credibility and integrity of our beloved alma mater.

Helping the Victims
We ourselves have experienced deep and lasting trauma, pain and humiliation because of the violation we experienced as children at the hands of our trusted teachers and coaches. In some cases those who abused us had been our heroes and role models. We know of other victims who are still nearly crippled by that pain or who feel unable, unwilling or afraid to come forward. We believe that for each of us who has come forward there are several others who have not yet felt able to do so. Some of us have struggled with decades of depression, drug addiction, alcoholism, suicide attempts, broken relationships, etc., and we have spent countless hours in costly therapy seeking healing of our memories.

We believe the Horace Mann administration should make a public apology to us which expresses compassion for what we have suffered. Such an apology, though long overdue, would go a long way toward helping us and others experience healing.

We believe that Horace Mann has an obligation to act proactively to support the healing of those who were abused. For example, the School can and should establish a fund to compensate victims for such things as the cost of therapy and other loss and damage resulting from sexual abuse.

The School could also support and facilitate events or retreats – coordinated with us – that would promote healing of those who were abused in the past. We would also like the School’s public apology to be expressed privately to those of us who feel able to come to a private meeting. In this context survivors who feel able to do so should have opportunity to tell their stories to the Board and administration. Such actions, and others which we would be happy to discuss with the administration and Trustees, would go a long way to promote healing.

We understand that current administrators may not have been personally involved in past failures to act on our complaints and failure to report those complaints to the authorities. But some of us brought complaints to the administration or Board of Trustees in just the last several years, and we know that others came forward before us, yet we saw Horace Mann take little concrete action on our concerns until the New York Times Magazine article was published. This contributed to our continued sense of isolation and shame, and to the perception that we were alone, and it undermined our ability to pursue justice.

Furthermore, as Horace Mann alumni/ae we regularly receive fundraising literature urging us to support our alma mater because of its 125 years of tradition – because of the heritage of great work Horace Mann has done for many decades. It is true that Horace Mann has indeed done great work for many decades, and we are proud of that heritage. We are grateful for our many wonderful teachers at Horace Mann who never abused anyone and who ignited in us a lifelong love of learning. But the current administration cannot take credit for the good things in the past while disowning responsibility for the bad things in the past. The current administration cannot ask us to help them financially because of the good things their predecessors did in our lives while refusing to help us deal with the consequences of the bad things their predecessors did in our lives.

Change the System
Horace Mann has an opportunity to lead by example. Because of the prominence of Horace Mann as an institution, many other institutions and the wider public are watching closely the example which Horace Mann will set in dealing with this crisis. Horace Mann can and should serve as a model for other institutions in New York, in the U.S., and throughout the world.

We must change the current outdated statute of limitations in New York for sexual crimes against minors. As the New York Times reports, “For civil suits and many criminal charges, [current] New York law requires that allegations be made in court by the time a victim is 23 years old.” But research indicates that such is the power which abusers hold over their victims that only a tiny percentage of victims feel able to come forward before their 23rd birthday. For many of us it took decades for us to reach the place where we felt able to come forward. The current law is virtually a license to abuse children with impunity. We call upon the Horace Mann administration and the wider Horace Mann community to join us in supporting the Markey Bill (http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A5488). Though we would like to see a stronger bill, this bill is a step in the right direction. Dr. Kelly tells us that he publicly and privately supports passage of this bill, and we would like to thank him for that principled stand.

Conclusion
We want to thank our old classmates and fellow-alumni who have come forward with constructive proposals on how to move forward from here. We particularly welcome the letter from the Class of 1975 to the Board of Trustees and we ask the Trustees to read it carefully. We also welcome the letter to the Trustees from Adam Kasanof HM ’77, which we are appending to our letter. We applaud the courage of Dr. Kathleen Howard as she seeks justice for her late son Ben Balter. We are appending a letter representing her concerns, and we ask the Trustees to read this and Adam Kasanof’s letter and to give serious consideration to the recommendations they make.

We want to be clear that we still feel deeply connected to our alma mater. We are proud of the outstanding education we received at Horace Mann, and we are grateful for wonderful teachers who opened new horizons of learning for us. We do not want to hurt Horace Mann; we want to help heal it, though we have learned from experience that healing sometimes requires confronting painful realities. We welcome a dialogue with the Horace Mann administration and Trustees and the wider Horace Mann community, and we hope that this process of dialogue may lead to reconciliation, healing, justice and truth. We request that Dr. Kelly and the Trustees meet with us and Dr. Howard, with or without counsel, to work collaboratively to find solutions that will work for the survivors, their families and the wider Horace Mann family both past and present. We hope that our community may thereby serve as a role model for wider society.

Sincerely,

A group of survivors of sexual abuse by Horace Mann teachers and staff

We invite our fellow Horace Mann alumni/ae and other members of the Horace Mann community to express their support for what we have written here. If you are in support of our initiative, please leave a comment on this page or email us at HoraceMannSurvivor@gmail.com, giving us your name and your class year or your relationship to Horace Mann. We will post a list of signatories. If you yourself were abused, or if you know someone else who was, please feel free to contact us at the same address.


Immediately after sharing our letter, members of the Horace Mann community sent words of support and encouragement via comments, below. Some thoughts emailed to us are appended here. We will update this page as more  come in.


This is an excellent letter. Please add my signature to it.Peter Blum (Horace Mann ’70)


While I was not abused, it was clear to me that Robert Berman was a manipulative and destructive person.  I didn’t see the side of Somary that was described, but I believe it.

Most of all your four points are spot on and should have been proposed by the BOT and school leadership within 48 hours of the NYT article’s publication.

I fully support your proposals and pray for their immediate adoption by the school’s leadership. 

Rabbi Garry M. Bretton-Granatoor (Class of 1974, children ’05 & 11)
Vice President, Philanthropy, WORLD UNION FOR PROGESSIVE JUDAISM


I support your initiative. Robert Kersh (Class of ’77)


As a fellow HM alum from the Class of 1991 I am honored to support the HM Survivors and would be very proud to have my name added as a signatory.

You are all heroes for having the courage not only to come forward but to lead the way.

Jay Kooper (Class of 1991)


I’ve just read the HM Survivors’ Document. Thank you for your courage and for all you are doing. I am in support of your initiative. Please add me to the list of signatories.

Charlie Varon (’76)


I support what is written in the Survivor’s letter.  I feel no need to add to it, it says it all.

Shira Sanders (’81)


Please add my name to the signers of your letter to the board. Kol ha’kavod (all honor).

—Jeffrey Sokolow (HM ’66)


Nicholas V. Chen陳文俊


Thank you for putting it down on paper. Michael Samuels (HM’82)

We stand with you and fully support your recommendations.

Marjorie Greenspan Kaufman (1978)
Dr. David Kaufman
Grant Kaufman
(2018)
Matthew Kaufman (2019)

Thanks for the excellent letter to the HM leadership. I want to lend my support and agreement. Feel free to put my name onto this. Also, feel free to ask me for time or treasure, should they be required. You have my support!
Gerard Kiernan (nee Greweldinger) Class of 1985

The Horace Mann Board needs to take the actions outlined by the Survivors.

Silence in response to the alumni is sad and disappointing, but silence in response to those abused is without conscience.

I stand in solidarity with the Survivors.

—Peter W. Brooks (HM ’66)

Having read your letter to the Trustees, I am in full agreement and would like to have my signature added to others.

—Dr. Michael J Passow  (Class of 1966 & Faculty Member 1976 – 1985)

I lend my wholehearted support to your letter.

—Sophia (Ahsen) Wolf (HM class of 1985)

I will gladly add my name. May your letter lead to healing and a sense of justice that is long overdue.

—Amalia (Mia) Klinger (Class of 1984)

Thank you so very much for standing up for what is right. I hope that HM listens and does become the leader that they kept trying to tell us it was our duty to become. It would be wonderful if something good could come of all of this. I am so, so sorry for each of you that suffered abuse. Good luck, and you can count on me.

—Kim Dooley Kittay (HM ’87)

I support your initiative and agree with your letter to the board. I applaud your courage in coming forward and pressing on.

—Patrick Gibson (Class of 1978)

I read your letter that you posted on the HM fb page and wholeheartedly support it.

FYI, I attended HM in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Mark Wright was my classmate. Tek
Young Lin was a friend at whose home I dined on several occasions. Johannes Somary
was my academic advisor. Robert Berman was one of my teachers. I was never abused
by any of them but the recent revelations of their sexual predation and abuse has made
me reconsider my entire experience at Horace Mann.

You are to be commended for coming forward not only with your horrific accounts but also for channeling what I can only imagine to be your long held anger, hurt, shame and frustration into proposals for positive action as expressed in your open letter. The lack of a response thus thus far from Dr. Kelly and the Board only adds to the mounting disappointment and disgust many HM grads feel, including myself.

Please add my name to your letter. The truth will prevail.

—Arthur Drooker (Class of ’72)

You have my support!

—Abigail Aronson (HM ’87)

—Eric Siegel (Class of 73)

I just read it and wholeheartedly support every recommendation in the letter. I consider myself lucky that I was not a victim of any teacher’s abusive behavior, and am happy to help this effort in whatever way that I can.

—Martin Wolff (‘77)

Thank you for your hard work in this extremely important matter for our friends, classmates, school, and community.

—Andy Caploe (HM ’78)

I support the brave and eloquent letter – please add my name.

—Eleanor Hamburger (Class of 1983)

I would like to express my strong support of your constructive letter.

—Hilary Reiter (HM Class of 1993)

I read your letter on the processing HM facebook page and would like to add my support to what I am sure is a growing chorus of support. Please add my name to the list of signatures and let me know what else I can do.

—Marc Lerner (HM ’89)

I am in complete support of your initiative.

—Susan Cooper Rappaport (’87)

I wholeheartedly support the sentiments expressed in the June 21st letter. Dr. Kelley and the Board have an opportunity to act in accordance with the sentiments expressed in this document and bring the HM community together or continue on the current course of attempting to distance themselves and risk to permanently divide the school from a major segment of the alumni base. My hope is that they will quickly change direction and begin to coordinate the proper assistance efforts for the victims. My fear is that they will continue the legalistic path of denial of responsibility.

—David Rubin (Class of 1978)

I support your letter dated 6/21/2012 to Dr. Tom Kelly and the Horace Mann School Board of Trustees. Please add my name to the signatories.

—Ben Berry (Class of ’77)

Hello, I’m Eric R. Finkelman, HM ’75–and one of the signatories of the Class of ’75 (and a member of the ad hoc committee that drafted it). I just read your letter on Facebook. I thought it was an amazingly well-written letter: very moving, and spot-on in every way. The second paragraph especially resonated with me. I was not personally a victim of abuse, but knew a few of those who were (and suspect a few other friends and classmates were as well, with the benefit now of hindsight). And one of the abusers (Mr. Lin) was a teacher I greatly admired. So yes, I’ve been terribly saddened, and indeed traumatized, in learning of the wide scope of these events, and it’s changed forever the way I will view HM.

There IS one area and which I’d like to help, and that is in gathering support and lobbying for the Markey bill. I think it makes sense for a sub-group to be formed to participate in this effort. And we have some people with in-depth political experience in our community (e.g. Elliott Spitzer ’77 and Peter Deutsch ’75) who, if not willing to personally and publicly put their support behind this, could possibly offer us some guidance in how best to direct our efforts. I’d like to contribute my time to such an effort. Please let me know how I can be of help!

—Eric R. Finkelman
Vice-President, General Counsel & Secretary
Sun Chemical Corporation

I want to stand in support of your actions. This is a really strong letter, and so important.

—Marina Zurkow (Class of 1980)

Please know you have my support and willingness to help in whatever way I can, as I too have been a victim of abuse.

—Karen Davis (Class of 77)

I support this letter. In addition to these proposals, I would like to see the Penal Code definition of consent amended to preclude sexual relations between a high school student and a teacher. This is one of the harms we can help to prevent in the future.

—David S. Vogel (HM ’73)

Thank you for the +1 on Google Plus of an article I posted. Otherwise, I do not think that I would have found the very moving “Survivors’ Letter” on your website. I have shared it on Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter and also with others interested in these issues.

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” – Louis Brandeis

—Dorron Katzin (Chicago, IL)

I support your initiative as set forth in your letter.

—Jeff Moerdler (HM ‘75)

—Erica Modugno (Class of ’89)

Yes, I support.the proposal and I appreciate your thoughtful letter.

—Madeline Schwartzman (’79)

I’m grateful to you for the support and care you are offering to everyone hurt in our community. There are many. How may I help? While I was not a victim directly, I can only count myself lucky, now, and feel ashamed at the price. My heart goes out to all who were abused and the many who suffer in silence.

—Peter Brooks (Class of 1966)

I think this is an excellent letter that I fully support. I do wish, however, that you had included a massive paragraph on how HM emotionally abused women who were in the early years girls graduating from HM. Our teachers didn’t know how to deal with us; the guidance staff was personally abusive, and I don’t think HM gave any consideration to its then-teachers about how adolescent girls might differ from adolescent boys, and in retrospect, it tarnishes anything good I might have had to say about the institution. Four years at Vassar certainly showed me how a relatively even ratio of men to women, particularly at a formerly female college certainly showed me that co-education was real and possible in an institution that went co-ed vs. one that accepted girls. It’s far from a matter of semantics.

—Nancy E. Frank (‘78)

I was very moved by your letter of June 21, 2012. It is warm, considerate, and above all, courageous. I lend my support, and would like to be added as a signatory.

—Lisa Cohen (class of ’82)

—Lorin Klaris (Upper School student 1975-6)

I am the parent of three children, all of whom attended HM in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The letter is a carefully thought out document which should be fully supported by all, including the current Administration and Board without resorting to the “it wasn’t on our watch” excuse.

—Bennett L Rosner, M.D (Parent of three HM students)

—Jeremy Ginzberg (HM ’69)

Thank you for your courage and for working to hold our administration accountable. If HM wants to live up to the ideals and values it claims to represent, now is the time for the Board to act. The recommendations outlined in your letter, which I wholeheartedly support, are prudent and necessary.

—Cory Stern (Class of 1991)

You have my support

—Neil Phillips (Class of 1985)

Your reasonable and carefully considered proposal should be embraced as a constructive first step toward resolving the painful issues that confront the HM community. Thank you for considering the best future interests for everyone. It would have been simpler for you to loudly demand retribution, focused on the past. Clearly you rose above that impulse.

—Mark Niederman (‘77)

I saw a copy of this document on the “processing Horace Mann” facebook page, and I wanted to write expressing my support for the letter and its suggested initiatives.

—Jessica Scarlata (Class of 1989)

—Andrew Edlin (Class of 1979)

Please add my name to the list of your supporters and I hope that your group also received the letter we members of the class of ‘76 crafted based on the class of ‘75’s letter.

—William Rogers (Class of ‘76)

—Skylar R. H. Fein (HM class of ’86)

80 thoughts on “Original Survivors’ Letter

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  7. This is to Pam Blank in memory of your beloved brother, Douglas. I met him at a Tennis camp in 1966, and how odd that things become full circle. That he would leave such a lasting impression on me and that you are the visual image of him. That i would know personally the Board Trustee, Steven Friedman, grieves me so as he was a year behind your brother and had to know all that was HM, and spent 9 years in his role covering all traces of this disgrace. I am so sorry for you and your family. I know how much your brother must have suffered-what a wonderful person.

  8. As of June, 2014… two years later.
    — 12 abusers are alive, of 22 known so far
    — The administration received at least 24 reports of abuse and has not explained how so many were hurt for so long and why the administration allowed, enabled and in some case participated in the abuse.
    — The Survivors did not receive a reply from HM to any of the four letters they sent.
    — The school refuses to investigate or cooperate with an independent investigation.
    “It is also clear that there are two schools to tend to: one facing forward with a lifetime of wonderful memories taking shape, and one with students well past college-age seeking support and leadership beyond what a traditional alumni office offers.” — Tom Kelly,June 10th, 2012. Two HMs.

    • I am the granddaughter of John Dorr who so generously donated nearly 100 acres to Horace Mann nearly 5 decades ago. I am deeply saddened as I read the stories of abuse. John and Nell would be horrified. Nell was a close friend of Tek Linn and I am grateful she never had to hear of his shocking behavior in spite of how benign he may report it. I salute all the students who have come forward and all those who have brought this to light. Sincerely, Barbara Howe

      • Thank you, Ms. Howe. And thank you to your grandparents for their generosity. Though abuse took place in many HM-related venues, and the Dorr campus was no exception, many of us also have very happy memories of learning about the outdoors at the John Dorr Nature Laboratory. I myself had a wonderful experience at Dorr. — Joseph Cumming ’77

  9. Please include my signature. I was not a victim of abuse but am deeply disturbed by what has come to life since the New York Times Magazine article. Not only do I wish there was more I could do but I feel guilty that others had to experience so much suffering and shame while I was so ignorant of the behavior of those we looked up to as role models.

  10. It is clear the HM administration is psychologically, morally, and legally disinclined to “do the right thing.” Penn State University refused to do the right thing for fifteen years until it was hit with a mountain of evidence. The Board of Trustees has only recently been filled with reactionary “scandal deniers” who want to wipe the University clean of any responsibility–and Gov. Corbett is suing to remove NCAA fines. So much much for conscience and leaning from experience. Penn has a “football cult,” and HM has an “HM is the greatest prep-school in the USA” cult. You cannot change cult thinking. You can only fight it head on with threats and pressure. Get more creative about what you can do to pressure HM into “doing the right thing.”

  11. Great is the truth and it prevails. Thank you all for your courage. We support you.
    Angela DeGiaimo, HM Class of ’00

  12. Marc Fisher’s writing in The New Yorker is so powerfully sad – honoring the requests of the survivors in their letter is the very least that Horace Mann can do…

  13. I myself would love to see Horace Mann burned to the ground, and to have the opportunity to urinate on its ashes.–Robert Paul Lamb, Class of 1968

  14. As a parent of two kids, one of whom went all the way through Horace Mann from Nursery age 4 through HS and another of whom attended up until 7th Grade, I fully support this letter. Further. I support all that is being done on behalf of this group to gather healing for the victims of these unspeakable acts.

    As has been reference earlier on this website, the problem is bigger than the abuse. The problem lies in the fact that obstruction of justice occurred at the school by multiple teacher and administrators over decades and was continued to allow to occur. Why?

    My wife and I have discussed this at length. We believe it’s because of the cult-like nature of the leadership of the school, and the arrogance of its leadership. Where leaders are arrogant, they quickly grow lazy and distance themselves from things that need to be attended to and changed.

    Horace Mann needs a sea-change of transparency and humility not only on this website but through the school. It needs to re-model itself along the lines of becoming servant leaders to it parents and kids and give up the arrogance of being The Great Horace Mann that no one can question.

    Without doubt these events have proven that Horace Mann never was the best school- it’s culture of arrogance did not allow it. Now there is a question whether Horace Mann even deserves to survive as a school. To do so, it must change it’s leadership, change it’s Board, change it’s attitudes and begin to lead with humility.
    I’m not sure it’s in the DNA of the school to do so.

  15. I fully support the survivors of abuse by HM faculty. I just read my classmate Marc Fisher’s essay on Mr. Berman (thank God I never had that one) and was moved to write here. During this Passover and Holy Week, I pray for liberation and rising up from bondage and suffering. May everyone’s wounds be healed.

    Rabbi Jerry Seidler
    HM 1976

  16. I fully support this letter and hope that the administration and the Board of Trustees will live up to their obligations and responsibilities in addressing this matter.

  17. Please add my name (Class of 1974; Student Body President 1973-1974; Faculty, 1978-1981) to this list. As a fellow HM-Princeton grad of Stan and Mark, I was friendly with both men and aware of their differences but never aware of their predatory tendencies; my heart goes out to their victims. HM must “do the right thing” as an institution, without equivocation by PR firms, lawyers, or current administration. As a teacher (and former administrator!) over a 30+ year career at independent schools, I have always quoted HM’s alma mater, so I hope that in these direst of circumstances the truth WILL indeed prevail, and provide relief/sustenance/justice to HM’s victims.

  18. I commended your courage. Please add me to the list of supporters. I am hopeful that the Board of Trustees will do the right thing: acknowledge, apologize, respond to and follow the thoughtful recommendations you present here.

  19. With the utmost respect and admiration for the courage of the Survivors, I humbly add my name in support of this letter. Silence never heals.

    Sincerely,
    Robert Nisonoff

  20. Thank you for laying out such a well thought out plan that would have healing and lasting effects at Horace Mann and hopefully beyond. Please add my name to the list of supporters.
    Megan Wolf ’83

  21. Mitch Schonfeld, class of 73

    To all of you in the alumni community who have been abused I offer my deepest sympathy. I know of some and fear that other of my classmates in 73 suffered at the hands of Lin, Berman and Somary. I was not abused, nor ever suspected anyone while I was a student. I had a great experience there and learned how to learn, and absorbed the eternal values of our motto, just like so many of us have.
    “Great is the truth and it prevails” transcends the institution of HM and
    transcends the people who taught there good and bad, and certainly those who abused. Our motto is our legacy. And it is so powerfully clear from the original letter and all the postings how strongly it is infused within the alumni community. We are living the highest values of the school and now we are trying to get the current HM leaders to live up to our motto. Thus,I fully endorse your letter and lend my name to it.
    The Bergen Family Center, where I work, provides counseling for adult and child victims of incest and sexual assault and so I know from the listening side, about the shame, anger and guilt experienced by victims, and how difficult it is to feel normal. I can also say with absolute certainty that there is healing, and I expect that some of you have worked very hard and long in therapy to heal. And some of you will have buried the abuse and will now be facing it head on because the issue is fully revealed. It will be hard, and there is a way out and another side beyond the pain.
    I wish you all well and welcome anyone to contact me.

  22. May this be the beginning to a path of healing for he entire Horace Mann community.
    Beth Slaybaugh ’85

  23. I am the parent of three children, all of whom attended HM in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The letter is a carefully thought out document which should be fully supported by all, including the current Administration and Board without resorting to the “it wasn’t on our watch” excuse. Of all of the replies which I have just read, a quick perusal finds only three which allude to an even bigger, if not illegal, abuse which was quite rampant in those days and may be continuing till today. I am referring to the psychological abuse of an institution and teachers which often had an arrogant and disdainful attitude towards students. Many teachers such as Harry Allison and Tek Lin had clear antipathy towards women. Allison started his classes by saying “now boys, let’s get started” long after the room was filled with boys and girls. He had trouble making the switch to a coed institution and was proud of it when called on his “now boys” opening remarks. He had been at the school so long that my brother-in-law had had him as a teacher. See Nancy Frank’s above comments. See Betsy Drapkin’s comments above. Letters of recommendation for college admission were often tied to covert if not overt requests for donations. Headmaster Inky Clark, a former Yale admissions officer, had no problem with this in his personal response to such requests. There was little, if any, tolerance for students’ different learning skills and styles, and I don’t even think the concept of a learning disability such as dyslexia or dysgraphia was understood. Certainly provisions for a student to utilize available compensatory methods of learning weren’t even considered until someone made a donation to provide for a program which addressed this need. Our two oldest children graduated from HM high school, but we transferred our younger child to another school when we gradually began to wake up to what was happening and decided that we did not want him to be subjected to the sort experience we saw his older brother and sister having. His experience was much more rewarding there. Most parents had trouble seeing that the emperor had no clothes because they were so dazzled by the fabulous image presented by the school and that’s what they wanted to see and believe.
    HM was a fabulous school with gifted and charismatic teachers such as Tek Lin, it just wasn’t for children.

  24. I sign this letter with pride in my schoolmates for taking a strong stand. I had a great education and a great time at Horace Mann, but I also suffered at the hands of abusive and arrogant teachers who were inappropriate and unprofessional in their behavior. I myself am a career high school teacher and have reflected many times over my days at Horace Mann. Dealing properly with these past events (not allegations, events) is the missing piece of a large puzzle. May future generations of students thrive at HM in safety and dignity.

  25. Some principles of crisis management from my college roommate, an executive at the largest PR firm in the world:

    1. As Warren Buffet put it: “Get it right; get it fast; get it out; and
    get it over.” A torrent of everything you know is better tahm holding back
    and getting found out bit by bit.

    2. There is a Coombs scale that runs from victim to perpetrator. The media
    will be trying to figure out where Horace Mann is on that scale. The more
    it is seen as covering up or not doing the right thing–then and now– the
    more it will be a perpetrator.
    http://www.instituteforpr.org/topics/crisis-management-and-communications/

    3 each constituency needs to be mapped for an outreach plan. This means:
    students; faculty; boards; regulators; parents; alumni; school
    associations; police; media; and crucially–future prospects.

    4. Crisis demands a “new way” after the crisis. The school must prove it
    has done a thorough soul searching on culture and operations and must
    demonstrate how it will change in great detail. Without this, you are only
    a serial offender who keeps giving insincere apologies.

    5. Third-party counsel and oversight are key. The school must embrace a
    clean outsider to run the investigation and oversee the changes. No
    insider will be seen as reliable.

    6. Access and transparency is key in winning back trust. Regular, open
    questioning sessions especially with parents.

    7. Third-parties as supporters and advisors are important. Don’t go it
    alone. Who are the friends of HM?

    8. In dealing with media, remember, the story is their friend–not you.
    The better the story, the more lurid, twisted and frought with
    villains/characters the better. Seducing you into being comfortable
    sharing the story in detail is their job. Know and get agreement on ground
    rules for every single communication.
    http://www.normanpearlstine.com/guidelines.html

  26. Having attended all six forms, being Horace Mann’s exchange student to Wallasey Grammar School in the UK and having been the brother of a now deceased brother who could only stand one year at Horace Mann before uncharacteristically and strongly demanding to be removed without reasons we knew of, I deeply troubled by the revelations. I am proud to be working actively with alumni and victims in trying to restore their lives and heal from these horrible indignities. I could go on, but I think the point has been made by others. I fully support this document and will act to see it put into action.

  27. I am in full support of the letter and hope that the administration will live up to the HM name. “Great is the truth and it prevails” Show the Horace Mann community, and public at large, that these are not empty words.

  28. Exceptional letter and equally exceptional comments, response, support and love from so many alums (some in my two classes: class of 1971 Forms 1 – 4 and class of 1972 for my Junior and Senior years afterI returned from Japan.) While this has been a huge black eye for HM caused not only by the heinous abusive behaviors themselves, but also by the lethargic and defensive posture taken by the current administration (‘we weren’t here, we didn’t know, it’s in the past, most are deceased/retired) it also has a positive side rooted in the response and the action plans set forth in the Survivors letter and the comments that followed it. Best wishes to all. – Martin Fenton, Miami, FL, Class of 1972

  29. I Personally did not attend Horace Mann; However I have many friends who went to Horace Mann in the eighties. As someone who is not part of the Horace Mann community you have my support.

  30. I am proud to add my name to the list of those supporting this very important and courageous letter.

  31. I chose to leave HM bec of the dog eat dog nature it instilled in its students at the time I was there. I started in Nursery and left after 8th grade. I was never molested but I was emotionally abused by several teachers and turned into a leper of sorts bec I would not accept the teaching methods of the school. I had a very difficult time there but that adversity shaped me into the strong adult I am today. The culture needs to become modern at HM otherwise with this crisis and more that inevitably will arise the school will turn itself into a dinosaur.

  32. I fully support the Survivors’ initiative and am honored that my recommendations were appended to their letter, and appear on this site. I share Alan Ampolsk’s view that the Board of Trustees should act, and I would respectfully remind the Board not to make the mistake of thinking that this situation will go away if they just wait long enough.

  33. It is important that the board takes this seriously, and makes strenuous efforts to address the concerns raised.

  34. I’m glad to see the collective energy channelled toward progress through a transparent process to set the example. If the Board follows these prescriptions, I think it reflects the best of the HM Community. Heck, I might even support the school again someday if these were to come about.

    Cheers,

    Mark Tennebaum ’78

  35. As a fellow alum and a member of a family to which HM is a legacy, I support these recommendations and support this letter and all the survivors. In peace.

  36. Thank you for your courage and eloquence. It’s an honor to add my name to the list of supporters.

    Fred Frank ’81

  37. I support the letter and wish to add my name. I thank the survivors for their courage in coming forward.
    David Ambaras ’79

  38. I fully support this letter and urge the Board of Trustees to act with compassion and humility to address the massive injuries caused by HM faculty and to investigate administrators who knew and did not act.

  39. With sympathy and support for those abused, and in hopes that all children are kept safe from such devastating physical and emotional abuse, I support this letter.

  40. The stories that have come out over the last 3 weeks have filled me with shame and a sense of great loss. This letter embodies some of the greatest attributes of Horace Mann students. It should be framed and placed in the breezeway. Or perhaps it could be paraphrased: “Great is the truth and it prevails.”

  41. I support this letter and the survivor group 100% and encourage the Board of Trustees to respond to it and follow the recommendations.
    Bill Irwin ’74

  42. Please add me to the list and let me know what else we can do to help.

    I am preparing to email this document to the entire Processing Horace Mann Facebook as well.

    Greg Mishkin, ’88

  43. I fully support this letter and its recommendations. I extend my deepest sympathies to the victims, and my sincere hope that the chain of events brought into play by the NY Times article will help to bring about a measure of healing and closure. I urge the Administration to accept each and every one of their recommendations. Also, I would like to do what I can to help, particulary by working with a group of HM alumni to obtain passage of the Markey bill. Has a committee been organized to do this? Eric R. Finkelman ’75

  44. To the Horace Mann School Administration & the Boards of Trustees, PAST & PRESENT : your silence and inaction makes you complicit. May you one day do the right thing.

  45. I support this letter. Let’s deal with this terrible history in an honest and healing way. Trust was betrayed and youth were harmed. The requests of the survivors are measured, reasonable, and offer a pathway forward. Let’s walk with them.

    • Pamela, I was a classmate of Doug’s and his friend. I had no idea what had transpired until recently. Doug was a great guy and beloved by all of us…

  46. Please add my name to the letter. You are all courageous individuals who deserve to have the truth prevail.

  47. I hope the Horace Mann administation and Board of Trustees will understand clearly that this letter represents the interests, concerns and desires, not just of the survivors’ group, but of the greater HM alumni community that supports them. The board’s strategy to date has been to divide and conquer – to tell us that the abuse is a thing of the distant past, and therefore to imply that the survivors are a small self-interested group with the potential to threaten the school in its current incarnation. This is not the case. Those of us who stand with the survivors expect the school to take ownership of its full past, not just the pleasant aspects of it that help drive fundraising. We expect the school to live up to the meaning of its creed – to demonstrate to us that the truth is great and will prevail. Trustees – we await your reaction.

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