The alumni of Horace Mann High School in New York have expressed dissatisfaction with how the administration is dealing with the recent allegations of sexual abuse detailed in an article in The New York Times Magazine last month. Current and former Mann students have taken to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to discuss the news, name additional teachers suspected of abusing students and talk about their feelings on the allegations becoming so public.
Since the article was published, the school removed the names from both their athletic fields, and an endowed chair. They carried the names of teachers many have now come to believe sexually abused students in their care. The school’s administrators have liaised with law-enforcement and offered assistance in the police investigation into the alleged incidents. Still, many alumni said that the tone of the statement released by the school after the story was first published seemed dismissive of the victims and not sufficiently empathetic. This led to a second letter addressing the allegations which was released later that same week.
Asked about criticism of the school’s handling of the matter, a spokesman for Horace Mann from Kekst and Company, a public relations firm, referred to a passage in one of Dr. Kelly’s letters, which, like the other letters, is posted on the school’s Web site: “With an emphasis on hearing and understanding the needs of those with the greatest concerns, the board of trustees will continue its deliberations and communicate at such time when a plan of action can be shared with the community at large. While I understand this is not what some in the community want to hear at this juncture, the school is not going to rush those decisions and actions that are proving to be among the most important ever to face our community of learners and leaders.”
The reaction to the school’s handling of the accusations could be colored by the impression of aloofness given by Mann’s trustees. Traditionally, although they comprise the top of New York’s business world, they have been reluctant to comment publicly on the issues dealing with the school.
It’s hard to argue that the school staff and board of trustees are taking the allegations lightly, as it was the focus of the entire recent school faculty gathering. According to a teacher not named by The New York Times, Kelly spent the duration of the meeting discussing the issues raised by the article and listed the steps taken by the staff to make sure that the students won’t be threatened with similar abuse going forward.