Amos Kamil, in his story for The New York Times Magazine, details his experience attending the elite Horace Mann high school — and coming for first time face-to-face with the institution’s dark secret of childhood sexual abuse. Kamil came from a poor family, and was attending the public Junior High School 141 in the Bronx borough of New York City, when his baseball talent was scouted by Mann’s headmaster R. Inslee Clark Jr., and he was offered a scholarship to attend the school and play for its baseball team.
Kamil benefited from Clark’s reformist spirit. Before taking over the headship of Horace Mann, Clark headed the undergraduate admissions department at Connecticut’s Yale University and did away with the school’s policy to take anyone from any highly-regarded prep-school regardless of academic attainment. He began admitting high-achieving graduates from all schools and walks of life, and when other Ivies followed suit, the change revolutionized America.
“You will laugh,” William F. Buckley Jr. wrote in 1967, “but it is true that a Mexican-American from El Paso High with identical scores on the achievement test and identically ardent recommendations from the headmaster, has a better chance of being admitted to Yale than Jonathan Edwards the Sixteenth from Saint Paul’s School.”
One of the first things Clark did when he took over as head at Mann is begin admitting girls, and offering baseball scholarships to promising low-income students with athletic talent.
Even in his first few days at the school, Kamil was already made aware by a classmate that it was best to stay away from some of the teachers there: not because they were tough disciplinarians or uncompromising graders but because they were “perverts.” There were also rumors about the assistant football coach Mark Wright who’d just been dismissed under unexplained circumstances.
It wasn’t until a decade later, while camping with some former Mann classmates, that Kamil found out why.
Speaking calmly and staring into the flames, he told us that when he was in eighth grade, Wright sexually assaulted him. “And not just me,” he added. “There were others.” First Wright befriended him, he said. Then he molested him. Then he pretended nothing happened.
Others on the trip had similar stories. Some equally horrible, some less bad, but all pointed towards how easy it was for teachers and students to cross the line between a close relationship like Kamil enjoyed with Clark, into the inappropriate.
Wright’s inappropriate contact with students continued for years until one football player spoke up to the administration. The next year, Wright was gone and no one got an explanation. The students didn’t discuss what happened to them and no one spoke of it again.