NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Elite prep school Horace Mann has made a decision on how it will handle dozens of sexual abuse claims by former students. The school told CBS 2 exclusively about its next step.
Horace Mann went on the record Friday, telling CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian, “the school has no plans for further review” of dozens of allegations of sexual abuse levied at former teachers.
Alumnus Ron Kleper said his football coach abused him for two years when he was 13, and he wants justice.
“It’s a slap in the face,” Kleper said. “I think they believe that people have short-term memory and that they could just sweep us under the blanket.”
Joseph Cumming, a leader of the Horace Mann Survivor’s Group and a former student and alleged victim of sexual abuse, issued the following statement in response to the school’s announcement:
“I am shocked that Horace Mann would say that this matter is now closed. It is not closed for the victims. We still live every day with the memories of what more than 20 teachers did to us. We still deal every night with the nightmares that haunt our dreams. We still deal daily with other fallout, including ongoing costs of therapy. We deal with a school that refuses to investigate and answer the four-word question we have asked from the beginning: ‘Who knew what when?’ The answer to this would be healing for many of us. With all our hearts we WANT to move on and put this behind us. But the school’s continuing actions make it harder for us to heal and move on,” Cumming said.
The decision comes as the school prepares to pay millions of dollars to former students to settle dozens of sexual abuse claims.
“I think the amount of money they gave us was a pittance compared to what we went through,” Kleper said.
Peter Brooks, the archivist for the Horace Mann Coalition, said former victims will receive between $20,000 and a few hundred thousand dollars apiece, but victims won’t have closure until the school conducts an investigation.
“If they can’t understand how and why this went on for so long and hurt so many, I can’t understand how they would be in a position to say how children are safe today,” Brooks said.
The school said it issued an apology and “put in place revised and new policies specific to child abuse prevention and reporting,” telling CBS 2 the matter is closed and no current students are at risk. But the number of former students who claim they were abused is growing.
“Now we understand includes some 62 victims, more than 77 accounts of sexual abuse by 22 faculty member teachers,” Brooks said.
Brooks later issued a statement, saying: “That Horace Mann says the matter is closed is not new — they have never explained how abuse was allowed for decades. Any policies they say they have installed cannot be specific to the root of the problem — the vast institutional failure they refuse to investigate.”
A school representative told Dardashtian that over the past year nine of 35 trustees have resigned from the board, with at least four leaving because they didn’t agree with the school’s plans for handling the scandal.
CBS 2 called several former trustees who said they want to talk but can’t because of confidentiality agreements. Kleper said the school is perpetuating a tradition of secrecy.
“I think there’s a lot more they were just hoping would disappear,” Kleper said.
He said the school could set an example and follow its motto: “Great is the truth and it prevails.”
Some alleged victims told CBS 2 the school’s insurers are holding up their settlements by refusing to pay the school. The school is suing its insurance companies to recoup the money.
The Bronx district attorney investigated the Horace Mann matter, but can’t prosecute any alleged abusers because the statute of limitations has run out.
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