Horace Mann abuse victims blast trustees
By Shant Shahrigian
A letter circulated among 31 victims of sexual abuse — and their families — at Horace Mann School blasted the school’s board of trustees’ handling of their cases. The Oct. 9 open letter stated that the chairman of the board should resign unless he creates more transparency about how the school handled decades of sexual abuse by faculty members.
“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,” the sexual abuse survivors wrote.
However, their call seemed unlikely to gain traction. Horace Mann’s Alumni Council voted 22-4 on Oct. 10 against a resolution expressing no confidence in the board leadership unless it cooperates with an independent investigation commissioned by a group of concerned graduates called the Horace Mann Action Coalition, or unless it starts its own inquiry.
“The action of the Alumni Council speaks for itself,” Horace Mann said through Kekst and Company, a communications firm it uses to discuss the sexual abuse.
The victims’ letter was the latest in a series of exchanges between the board and graduates concerned about the school’s handling of past sexual abuse cases. Revelations of a pattern of sexual abuse by teachers from 1962 to the late 1990s shocked the Horace Mann community and made national headlines in June 2012.
Steven Friedman, chair of the board of trustees, and Thomas Kelly, head of school, stated in an Oct. 6 letter that the board would not publish findings by an independent mediator about the sexual abuse. They wrote that the decision came at the behest of victims’ lawyers.
That claim infuriated a group of victims that has worked to reveal the full extent of the sexual abuse. The Horace Mann Action Coalition hired retired judge Leslie Crocker-Snyder to look into the matter in an investigation that survivors have supported, but which the board declined to participate in.