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Monday, September 1, 2014

What’s in a name? Anguish, for some Horace Mann alumni

By Maya Rajamani
Posted
File photo Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Horace Mann School is, once again, embroiled in controversy after sending Homecoming notices for an event on a field once named for a discredited former headmaster.

Many Horace Mann graduates who received the school’s alumni magazine in the mail last week were shocked to discover a “Save the Date” for Homecoming within its pages that referred to the school’s main athletic field by its former name, “Clark Field.” 

The school removed the name from the field two years ago, after allegations of sexual abuse arose against the late R. Inslee Clark Jr., a former Horace Mann head of school who has also been accused of covering up abuse by other teachers during his tenure as headmaster and then president at the school between 1971 and 1981. 

Joseph Cummings, a 1977 graduate and survivor of abuse, said he was traumatized when he saw Mr. Clark’s name on the invitation. 

“It brought back all of those memories and all of that pain for me,” said Mr. Cummings, who has spoken out on behalf of Horace Mann abuse survivors in the past. “The pain came rushing back of my own experiences of being abused — not directly by Clark himself, but by people whom Clark was in league with.”  

Horace Mann became embroiled in scandal after the New York Times Magazine published a lengthy exposé written by class of 1982 graduate Amos Kamil in June 2012. The piece detailed abuse by Horace Mann staff that began at the prep school in the 1960s and continued into the 1990s. 

The revelations spurred the creation of the Horace Mann Action Coalition (HMAC), a group of Horace Mann graduates whose mission is to support survivors of abuse at the school. The group has called on the school to conduct an independent investigation of abuse that occurred over the decades. 

HMAC member Peter Brooks said that since 2012, 63 victims of abuse have been identified. Meanwhile, 22 alleged abusers have been named.  

John Seiger — a 1979 graduate who has spoken out about being raped by Mr. Clark and seven other individuals at the school during his time there —said he believes the school has set up a climate that allows the name of an abuser to go unnoticed.  

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