To the editor:
This letter was originally sent to Thomas Kelly, head of school at Horace Mann, and the school’s Board of Trustees.
I am writing to urge Horace Mann to publicly apologize and conduct an independent investigation of the alleged sexual abuse that former students have indicated took place at the school in the decades spanning the late 60s through the 90s.
Charges that former administrations ignored or covered up instances of sexual abuse have cast a shadow over the school’s reputation, which is being further damaged by its refusal to conduct an independent investigation of the abuse or the way it was handled in the past. The transparency of a thorough investigation would not only shed light on the occurrences of the past, but would confirm the school’s commitment to future vigilance around this issue.
In addition, students who were subjected to abuse, along with the many others whose school experience at Horace Mann has been tainted by the seeming pervasiveness of, and tolerance for, sexual abuse, are owed an apology. Though there is no undoing the wrong done, an apology would be helpful in easing the pain of their experience and would not, in my opinion as an attorney, increase the school’s liability. I cannot accept the fear of additional liability as an excuse for not doing the right thing.
Horace Mann has a deservedly outstanding academic reputation and, in recent years, has been an exceptionally good neighbor in supporting not-for-profit organizations in our community. However, its intransigence in not conducting an independent investigation of the alleged sexual abuse and its refusal to issue a formal apology has diminished its moral stature and put into question its commitment to wiping out all vestiges of the culture of abuse that apparently permeated the school at one time. Without an independent investigation and apology, the school’s contention that it is forging a new path with a policy of zero tolerance for predatory sexual conduct is less credible.
Lessons must be learned from the past and, to quote Winston Churchill, “Those who fail to learn from history, are bound to repeat it.”
G. OLIVER KOPPELL