Fourth Survivors’ Letter

We are a group of more than thirty[1] survivors of sexual abuse at Horace Mann. We write in response to Sunday’s letter from Board Chair Steve Friedman and Head of School Tom Kelly, in which they blamed us for their refusal to tell you and us what happened at HM and why. As a result, we are asking you directly today to support our ongoing call for an independent investigation and public accounting, ending the cover-up at Horace Mann.

Mr. Friedman and Dr. Kelly would have you believe we are satisfied with the trustees’ actions. This is false. The trustees’ response has left us worse off than before, causing fresh pain and hindering our ability to heal and to move on with our lives. From the beginning, our chief request has been a fully public investigation by a credible, independent third party – not merely the minimum legally required cooperation with law enforcement. We continue to call upon Horace Mann to explain who knew what, when they knew it, how they responded, and how abuse was allowed to flourish for decades. Dozens of us were molested. Many more teachers abused us than the media have reported. Numerous trustees and administrators knew but did nothing or coerced victims into silence. As we have stated in the past, and despite contrary claims in Sunday’s letter, we are eager to tell our stories to a responsible investigator who examines both the roots of the abuse itself and the subsequent cover-up. We are not willing to do what has been offered: for our painful stories to be exploited in a “report” which intentionally ignores our questions about how a climate of molestation, rape and cover-up was allowed to flourish. To reject our request and then to blame us for the school’s lack of transparency – claiming the trustees are acting “out of respect for [our] wishes” – is yet another in a series of betrayals.

We make these requests out of affection for our alma mater and a desire to help heal our school and our community. We renew our request, expressed in our June and July 2012 letters, to meet with the trustees outside a legal environment to promote truth-based reconciliation. Our school’s motto is “Great is the truth, and it prevails.” If Mr. Friedman does not believe that motto, then he should resign in favor of someone who does believe in pursuing truth. If you support us in wanting our school to commission or cooperate with a careful investigation and to tell the truth of what happened, please write to Mr. Friedman and Dr. Kelly at headofschool@horacemann.org. If you have donated to Horace Mann in the past, please consider telling them that until the truth is told, you will restrict your donations to supporting an investigation (commissioned by HM or by alumni) or to helping the victims directly. If you have not donated in the past, please consider telling them you will give if they stop the cover-up. If you have any questions, you can contact us at HoraceMannSurvivor@gmail.com.

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October 11 2013 update from Joseph Cumming ’77:

[1] Several people have written politely asking us who, exactly, is behind the above letter. Horace Mann’s spokesman at the PR firm of Kekst and Company questioned how many survivors were behind it. This letter was drafted and released corporately through a consensus process involving all of the women and men who have come together in the Horace Mann Survivors’ Group. Successive drafts were circulated via email among a community of 34 people, including 31 survivors of sexual abuse and 3 people representing close family members who took their own lives. Despite the short timeframe, the large majority of group members contributed input on the successive drafts, and only a small handful were unable to be reached for comment (some due to illness). On the final draft 30 members were able to provide comments, and all were favorable. Some members of the group have good reasons – including family responsibilities and professional obligations – for not feeling free to be individually and publicly named as survivors of sexual abuse. Nonetheless 15 members of the Survivors’ Group have been publicly identified by name – either in the news media (11 of us) or on the alumni-related Facebook groups (4 more).

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

Response to the August 6th letter from Horace Mann School Board of Trustees

The following is the official survivors’ group response to the letter issued this morning by Steven M. Friedman, Chair, Horace Mann School Board of Trustees:

The survivors of sexual abuse at the Horace Mann School welcome outreach by the Board of Trustees, although we are disappointed in the amount of time it took the Board to generate a response to our requests, which we first made on June 21, 2012.

While any gesture of outreach is positive, we are disappointed as well that this response does not address the requests we made in June and have repeated since: an apology from the institution, compensation for the survivors, and an independent investigation.

The investigation by the Bronx District Attorney’s office does not constitute an independent investigation according to established best practices. Nor does the NYPD investigation, also in progress. These investigations are not voluntary. The model for an independent investigation is the Freeh Report conducted by Penn State, which was voluntary, was funded by the school itself, and was not restricted by any constraints, such as the statute of limitations, on its ability to see its inquiry through to its conclusions. An independent investigation conducted by special outside counsel retained by the School for that purpose is especially appropriate and necessary in light of the facts that have come to light concerning the involvement of predecessor School Heads and Boards of Trustees in failing to respond to and/or suppressing reports of sexual abuse. These failures and suppressions would not necessarily be the subject of the DA’s or NYPD investigation.

We are disappointed as we have been in the past that the School and the Board choose to communicate in detail with the community as a whole before communicating in any substantive way with us.

We continue to assert our requests, and hope that a fully satisfactory response will be forthcoming from the School and the Board in future.