Horace Mann Sex Scandal: Major Questions Still Unanswered Following Prosecutors Report
Even though it was released Friday, we feel the need to revisit Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson's remarkable statement on the results of his investigation into sexual abuse of students by teachers at the prestigious Horace Mann School.
Prosecutors say the abuse ranged for 34 years, from 1962 through 1996. "The investigation revealed a systemic pattern of alleged abuse" beyond what the media had reported a year ago, the statement says. "In total, we received direct information regarding at least 12 separate alleged abusers," the statement says. "The reported abuse ranges from what may be characterized as inappropriate behavior, to child endangerment, actual instances of sexual contact, sexual intercourse and criminal sexual acts."
However, the statement leaves unanswered the key question about the school's own culpability in allowing the misconduct to fester through more than three decades. In other words, we still don't know what the school knew and when.
And since there is a massive loophole in state law, which incredibly does not require private schools to report sexual misconduct to law enforcement authorities, the other key question is whether the school used that loophole purposefully to cover up the misconduct. The Bronx DA is silent on these questions.
But the Horace Mann Action Coalition--a group of graduates who have been pressing the issue--says that it has learned of at least 18 instances "in which sexual abuse was brought to the attention of Horace Mann teachers, administrators and board of trustee members."
"In each case, the student who reported the abuse was told that pursuing the accusations might hurt his chances at attending the college of his choice, or that Horace Mann wouldn't consider a case for which the student had no 'video or audio' evidence," the coalition says. "It is tragic to consider how much suffering might have been avoided had even a few of the accusations been investigated."
Let's just pause on that a moment: the school actually threatened abused children with ruining their college chances? The school hid behind a lack of video or audio evidence in cases of molestation? So, the kids were supposed to wear a wire to prove their allegations and then report them to the school?
The coalition also points out that the school didn't have a written policy on reporting sexual abuse until two months after the New York Times article which first disclosed the abuse was published in July, 2012.
The coalition now wants an apology from the school. The school thus far has declined to comment on the DA's report--a strategy that's not going to do much to rehab the institution's tarnished reputation.
While the school did settle with a number of victims, that didn't squelch the scandal. One group of alumni have hired former judge Leslie Crocker Snyder to conduct another investigation, while another alumni group wants the school to do its own probe.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.