The Horace Mann Sexual Abuse Scandal Is Even Worse Than We Thought

Photo: Graham Morrison/Getty Images.
Update: Dr. Thomas Kelly, Horace Mann's head of school, responded to Refinery29's request for comment with the following: "We will closely read the HMAC's report and make any appropriate adjustments in our child safety policies that it has to offer. Given the information previously shared with us by those survivors who felt comfortable meeting with the school, as well as our work with the Bronx District Attorney's Office and the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, we are confident that our current policies and practices ensure a safe and secure environment for the students at Horace Mann School. We encourage anyone with information about past sexual abuse at the school to contact Horace Mann and/or the Bronx DA's Office."

On Wednesday
, one of New York City's most elite private schools has, once again, found itself in the midst of a major sexual assault scandal.

The Horace Mann School, an independent pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade institution in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx, was first accused of having a "secret history of sexual assault" in a shocking, first-person New York Times magazine piece, published in 2012 by former student Amos Kamil. 

“A new friend walked me around the school, pointing out teachers to avoid," he writes in the account. "‘What do you mean? Like, they’re hard graders?’ ‘No. Perverts. Stay away from them. Trust me.’”

Following Kamil's haunting tale, the Bronx district attorney issued an investigation into the alleged abuse, and found 25 students had been sexually assaulted by 12 perpetrators. 

Today, the Horace Mann Action Coalition (HM Action), a group founded by the school's alumni, released a 114-page update revealing a shocking 60 cases of sexual assault against students by 22 employees between the 1960s and '80s, more than twice the amount originally revealed. 

Entitled "Making Schools Safe," the report includes an analysis of sexual abuse at 21 independent schools throughout America, as well as an outline of the history of sexual assault at Horace Mann, including named abusers, the administration's apparent ignorance of said cases, and the internal actions reportedly taken to avoid these situations in the future. Leslie Crocker Snyder, a former judge and sex-crimes prosecutor for the Manhattan DA, was the lead investigator.

According to HM Action, Horace Mann refused to participate in the investigation. "Since we know the school received reports of abuse on which no action was taken, my own sense is that they saw a full investigation...to be a liability for some board members, perhaps, and at least an embarrassment," HM Action member (the organization does not utilize titles) Peter Brooks told Refinery29 via email. "And, once reports were buried, being open about any new one might have pointed at earlier reports."

In an October 6, 2013 letter to the community, Steven Friedman, chairman of the Horace Mann Board of Trustees, promised that the school "participated in a mutually agreed-upon mediation process with those survivors who wished to participate, all of whom were represented by counsel, and issued a sincere apology for the harm that was caused by the teachers and administrators who abused anyone during their years at Horace Mann School," and that it "has cooperated fully with the various government authorities in their reviews of the abuse."

Brooks, however, is not convinced. "If the school can't explain how and why it went on so long, they can't say it won't happen today," he wrote.
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