False Statements Issued by Horace Mann School On May 24th, 2013

Response to Press Statement Containing False Statements Issued by Horace Mann School On May 24th, 2013

On May 24, 2013, the Horace Mann School in New York City (HM) published a press statement containing false statements in an effort to divert attention from the fact that the School and its administration were rejecting repeated requests by numerous adult survivors of child sexual abuse at Horace Mann that an independent investigation into the abuse and the School’s knowledge of the abuse be conducted.

Nearly a year ago, a number of our 25 clients — all of whom are survivors of childhood sexual abuse at Horace Mann — urged the school to do an independent investigation.   On April 22, 2013, a number of survivors of sexual abuse at Horace Mann and we as their lawyers, held a press conference once again to urge Horace Mann to conduct “an immediate, independent and transparent investigation into the worst case of child sexual abuse in an American school in recent history.”

Last Friday afternoon (May 24, 2013), Horace Mann publicly announced its response.  Horace Mann refused to do an investigation. Instead, Horace Mann stated:

“Finally, the Board of Trustees has accepted the proposal of Commonwealth Mediation that Commonwealth Mediation prepare an independent summary of the reported abuses, without identifying the survivors. The mediators involved have heard from thirty-one alumni/ae who described in painful detail the inexcusable conduct of their teachers and administrators that occurred between seventeen and fifty-one years ago. Given the passage of time, most of the abusers are either dead or mentally infirm; the remainder, we understand, are unwilling to respond to the allegations, and the School does not have the authority to compel these individuals to do so. It is these reports heard by the mediators — shared privately and in person by survivors — that provide us the greatest insight into what happened. The Board of Trustees and Head of School have agreed to make the summary report available as soon as practicable.”

The “painful detail” referenced by Horace Mann were victim impact statements made by our clients at the mediation. These statements were enormously difficult and gut-wrenching.  They took a high emotional toll on each of our clients many of whom revealed facts that they had kept hidden for decades, even from people who are closest to them. Our clients made those statements in reliance upon express written and oral representations that everyone involved in the mediation process would keep these statements and the facts presented in them confidential.   That is not to say that our clients do not want transparency or do not want the school or an investigator to hear of their abuses.  To the contrary, they want the facts and details of the abuse to be absorbed and analyzed in a full independent process that includes an examination of school records and interviews of not only abusers but of school board members, administrators and teachers who observed and/or knew of the abuse and either took no action or actively took steps to ensure that the abuses stay hidden.

Notwithstanding this history, Horace Mann announced to the world on Friday afternoon that it would publish a report summarizing our clients’ statements.   This “summary” is a betrayal.   It was not what the survivors had asked for or wanted.  It is contrary to the representations and agreements made to and with the survivors.

This summary is also contrary to what the survivors had been told would be considered by the Board of Trustees at Horace Mann.

On March 28th, Paul Finn of Commonwealth Mediation wrote to us, stating: “Tom Kelly has just informed me that the special Board Meeting scheduled fortomorrow, March 29, 2013, has been postponed because not enough Board members could appear in person because of the religious holidays and/or school vacations.  Mr. Kelly has informed us that the full Board will meet on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 in New York City.  Brian and I plan on attending. On another note Brian and I will not be doing the investigation.  We are neutrals and will remain the same.  We will ask the Board to conduct an independent investigation as part of our recommendations, but we will not ask the Board to hire us to do that investigation.”

After Horace Mann issued its press release last Friday, we contacted Mr. Finn to find out whether or not Horace Mann’s announcement that Commonwealth Mediation, his firm, had agreed to prepare “an independent summary of the reported abuses,” that would  be based upon what had been “heard by the mediators — shared privately and in person by survivors” at the mediation. In response to our inquiry Mr. Finn wrote to us on May 27th stating: “We have not been hired to do anything.”

Notably, we have also asked Horace Mann’s lawyers to verify the facts pertaining to Commonwealth’s role going forward insofar as a report was concerned.  We have not received any response.

In light of Mr. Finn’s response, we believe it is clear that Horace Mann has chosen falsely to state to the world that the mediators would prepare an “independent” report of what they learned at the mediation, knowing that no such report will ever be prepared.  We believe this is a callous attempt to deflect attention from the fact that Horace Mann is continuing to refuse to conduct an independent investigation — an investigation which could reveal not only the extent of the abuse but also identify school administrators and board members who knew about the abuse but did nothing to stop it or who actively threatened children or their families to keep the reports and abuse hidden.

Horace Mann has attempted to posture itself as caring and compassionate to the survivors but they have only increased the suffering of survivors by publishing a flagrantly false statement.  Such institutional deception and ongoing bad faith has served only to exacerbate and reopen the deep anxieties and feelings of those who are the victims and continue to struggle every day to survive the abuse that altered their lives.

Our clients were Horace Mann students.  They were sexually abused by Horace Mann teachers at the Horace Mann School.  Horace Mann’s refusal to conduct an independent, full, and transparent investigation – including into the School’s own actions and knowledge – and Horace Mann’s actions in putting out a misleading press statement is a cause for further shame.  It has aggravated the harm and suffering that these survivors have been forced to endure at the Horace Mann school.

Since Horace Mann’s press statement is on Horace Mann’s website, we would hope that Horace Mann would have the decency to place our response alongside its statement for the Horace Mann community to see as well. Horace Mann should also issue a retraction and an apology to the survivors for the false and misleading statements it has made which has caused them such pain.

Attorney Gloria Allred and Attorney Mariann Wang
May 30, 2013

Allred, Maroko & Goldberg
6300 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1500
Los Angeles, CA 90048
323-653-6530
www.amglaw.com
www.gloriaallred.com

Child sexual abuse remains hidden, often for years

As revelations about Jimmy Savile fill the news — another tragic case of an abuser using his position to lure children —Kathryn Westcott & Tom de Castella published an excellent article in the BBC News Magazine (25 Oct) explaining why these cases take so long to come to light.  In ‘The decades-long shadow of abuse’ Westcott & Castella discuss the re-traumatizing effect of not being believed once abuse survivors come forward, in a way continuing abusers’ psychological power to harm their victims years, even decades, later.

The decades-long shadow of abuse

In an earlier insightful article in the New Yorker magazine (24 Sep), In Plain View: How child molesters get away with it,’ Malcolm Gladwell — focusing, among other examples, on the Sandusky case — also addresses why these cases take so long to become known .

In Plain View: How child molesters get away with it

When monsters roam free, we assume that people in positions of authority ought to be able to catch them if only they did their jobs. But that might be wishful thinking. — Malcolm Gladwell (2012)

Raped by a Teacher

Published online today, Daily Beast reporter, Abigail Pesta, shares a heartbreaking story of a young woman who was raped by her teacher while a student at Horace Mann in the 1980s.

Raped by a Teacher: One Woman’s Tragic Past at the Horace Mann School

Warning: This is painful reading. Years of sexual and emotional abuse are described. Bravely and generously the victim,  now an adult, shares these awful experiences.  Not only is her strength inspirational, but her story helps us to understand why it is so difficult for children to come forward and seek help.

Letter from More than 100 Horace Mann Alumni Sent to the New York Times today

17 July 2012

The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018

To the editor:

In private communication with more than two thousand Horace Mann School alumni, we have learned of many more instances of sexual abuse by past teachers. We are shocked by their sheer brutality and number. The school has not acknowledged the truth of the abuses, but we can. We call for an independent, thorough investigation.

We have urged the school to apologize to our classmates who were abused and we are appalled that those school trustees who were aware of abuses at the time and ignored them, as recorded in the New York Times, have not resigned. We have demanded their removal.

Justice and healing can begin with accountability, transparency and truth.

[This letter is signed below by one hundred Horace Mann alumni from the classes of 1959 through 2007]
David Ambaras ’79
Andrew M Ansorge ’70
Mary Louise Cannon Apadula ’79
Abigail Aronson ’87
Kate Aurthur, ’87
Ed Beck ’64
Stephen Beer ’79
Sarah Birnbaum, ’87
Peter Blum ’70
Gordon Bock ’72
Alexander N. Bossy ’83
Clifford Brody ’75
Peter Brooks ’66
Allan Burke ’67
Jeremy Burns ’93
David Buskin, ’61
Herb Callender ’76
Nicholas V. Chen ’75
Charles Chessler ’79
Alex Citron ’71
Elizabeth B. Cooper ’79
Fosca D’Acierno ’88
Julie Shmalo Datnow ’87
Sara Rosenfeld Dassel ’85
Rachel Dickstein 88
Betsy Drapkin
Michelle Dumitriu ’95
Clare Dooley 85
Arthur Drooker ’72
Skylar R.H. Fein ’86
Martin Fenton ’72
Carole Kline Feuer ’79
Stephen L. Fife ’71
Mark Finkel ‘72
Eric R. Finkelman ’75.
Hal Fischer ’68
Margaret L. Frank ’78
Jessica Fridman ’91
Kate Geis ’87
Geoffrey H. Genth ’82
Patrick Gibson of 78
Jessica Gould
jeremy szold ginzberg ’69
Robin Gise ’90
Vicki Lan Goldstone ’90.
Laurie Gordon MD ’87
Peter Greer ’71
Lisa Grossman ’92
Debbie Gruber ’87
David Gutterman ’84
John Haber ’72
Ele Hamburger ’83
Dean Harris ’68
Albert Herskovits
Jonathan Himoff ‎’81
Lance Hoffman ’75
Rob Hollander ’72
Elizabeth Leef Jacobson ’79
Jen Kaminsky ’95
Sam Kanter ’64
Gerard Kiernan ’85
Kim Dooley Kittay ’87
Jay Kooper ’91
LarryKurzner ’79
Edward Lay ’78
Marc Lerner ’89
Merrill Lewen ‎’80
Rebecca Linden ’85
Chris Macri ’89
Joshua Malina ’84.
Gregory Mishkin ’88
Michael S Mishkin ’59
Erica Modugno ’89
Jodi Nass ’78
catherine newman ’83
Robert Nisonoff ’82
Mariana Olenko ’85
Peter M. Oppenheimer, Ph.D. ’75
Cari Lewis-Osborne ’88
Joseph R. Osborne’88
Michelle Packles ’90
Kirsten Paige ‎’07
Jamie Parish ’79
Peter Park ’89
Elizabeth Slaybaugh Picard ’85
Alison Pollet ’86
Dean Preston ’87
Christina Propst ’87
Gita Rebbapragada, ’95
Narasu Rebbapragada ’89
Umaa Rebbapragada ‎’93
Michael Rosen ’79
Charlotte Rosenberg ’83
Debby Rovine ’87
Josh Russell ’75
Marina Rustow ‎’86
Joanna Samuels ’88
Shira Sanders ‎’81
Suzanne Schecter ’80
Mitch Schonfeld ’73
Allison Schultz ’84
Rachel Schwartz ’87
Tom Seidner ’70
Jen Slaybaugh ’88
Mark Allen Smith ’68
Gustavus Stadler ’84
Natasha Steinhardt ’90
James Strickler ’66
Alice Swenson, ’89
Alexander Turoff ’84
David Vogel ’73
Raphael Winick, ’84
Sophia Ahsen Wolf ’85
Jennifer Berman Yoken ’89

Horace Mann Alum Rob Hollander’s Letter to the New York Times

To the editor:

In private communication with over 2000 Horace Mann School alumni, we have learned of several instances of sexual abuse perpetrated by past faculty against students, some more egregious than those which have already been published. We are appalled that the school administration has failed to reach out to our classmates who were sexually abused. Our demands for an apology on behalf of those classmates have been met with silence. We are also appalled that those school Trustees who were aware of those abuses at the time and ignored them have not resigned from the Board. We have demanded that they be removed.

Justice, accountability and healing cannot be complete without these first steps.

[signed by ?# of Horace Mann alumni listed alphabetically]

In his message to us, Rob writes:

I am gathering signatures for the letter below intended for the New York Times. If you wish to sign, please email me at hollander.rob@gmail.com indicating your desire to have your name included.

I intend to list the signatures in alphabetical order including non survivor alumni and survivors alike. I do not need a great many signatures, but I don’t wish to exclude anyone. Alternatively, the signatures can be compiled and submitted by other means — a webpage or by some other person. In any case, I would like to get this moving quickly, since newspapers do not print letters that are no longer timely.

(I’ve kept it short to increase the likelihood of getting it published.) Thanks to Christina Propst for her wise emendations.

 

16-Year-Old Boy’s Letter About Teacher’s Sexual Advances

Below is the letter (referenced in the New York Times piece of June 6, 2012) written by then 16-year-old Benjamin Balter, seeking help. The letter is addressed to Mr. Foote, who was Head of School for Horace Mann at the time. It is posted here with the permission of Balter’s mother.

16-year old Ben Balter reported sex abuse at Horace Mann School by Johannes Somary in 1993. He was not helped.

 

Scanned pdf of the original letter sent: Benjamin Balter 1993 letter to Horace Mann – scanned copy of original