A Horace Mann alumnus filed a lawsuit against the school and its trustees on Thursday, claiming he was sexually abused approximately 450 times between 1973 and 1977 by Johannes Somary, a now-deceased Riverdalian who headed the Horace Mann music department.
The case was filed in New Jersey, where the plaintiff lives.
The lawsuit, which names several former headmasters of the school and the current Head Master Thomas Kelly as well as past and present members of the Board of Trustees and the estate of Mr. Somary, portrays the Riverdalian as a “larger than life” Swiss-born aristocrat with a “subtle foreign accent” who “groomed” his victim by lavishing attention on him and praising his musical talents.
The suit said Mr. Somary went as far as to convince the unnamed victim that their meeting was predestined and that, as a child, Mr. Somary had written in his diary that “something happened today that will change your life forever” on the same day the alleged victim was born.
A New York Times Magazine article by alumnus Amos Kamil first documented Horace Mann’s “history of sexual abuse” in a June 6 article, which detailed alumni allegations against three now-deceased Horace Mann educators: assistant football coach and art professor Mark Wright, ancient history teacher Stanley Kops and Mr. Somary.
Since the story broke in June, approximately 35 alleged victims have come forward. They have collectively accused 20 former faculty members, some of them still alive, of sexual misconduct, according to the Horace Mann Action Coalition, an alumni organization formed to pressure the school to respond appropriately to the allegations.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit filed this week alleges that he did not question Mr. Somary’s love for him until he learned of other allegations of abuse.