Horace Mann School, the elite Horace Mann prep school in the Bronx, has apologized for sexual abuse committed by its teachers and administrators between the years 1962 and 1996. But the school, which has said it will create an advisory panel on student safety, appoint one of the victims to the Head of School Committee that advises the board of trustees, and release the school’s report of the sexual abuse committed by its employees, has refused to do one thing that the victims have asked for: support an independent investigation into the abuses.
Joseph Cumming, a former victim, said, “The school is effectively saying no to our primary request.” Board of Trustees Chair Steven M. Friedman and Head of School Thomas M. Kelly stated, “While nothing we can say or do will erase the painful memories shared by the survivors, we hope our actions demonstrate our resolve never to forget this portion of our past and reiterate our commitment to the safety of today’s students.”
The school issued a statement on its website saying, “We sincerely apologize for the harm that was caused by the teachers and administrators who abused anyone during their years at Horace Mann School. These unconscionable betrayals of trust never should have happened. But they did, and now we, as a school, must fully accept this reality.”
It also stated that “former teachers and administrators in fact did abuse, in various degrees, students.” The school claims that most of the perpetrators are either dead or “mentally infirm,” and the rest have refused to cooperate with the school which insists it is impotent to force them.
The school claimed that it has settled claims with a “great majority” of the victims. One of them, Jon Sieger, now 51, said he was first raped by headmaster Inky Clark when he was 14, and forced to perform oral sex on Clark. He added eight members of the faculty made him a “sex object and personal plaything. Instead of a safe, nurturing place that would educate me, Horace Mann ended up providing a perfect storm of childhood sexual abuse.”
One victim who claims he was molested roughly 450 times in the 1970s has sued the school. Other victims have urged New York state legislators to approve legislation allowing victims to sue schools even though the statute of limitations has expired. New York law only allows victimized students to file suits until they turn 23.