Grappling with abuse reporting, by the book


The sex abuse scandal that has shaken the Horace Mann School has also brought additional scrutiny to the school’s handbook, particularly the section on reporting abuse to authorities. 

Even after a series of recent revisions, some alumni say the alterations do not sufficiently protect vulnerable students. 

The school published a letter on March 4, stating that it had hired New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children to help it strengthen prevention policies, train staff on reporting and educate children about inappropriate behavior. In the note, NYSPCC Executive Director Mary Pulido described these efforts as the “gold standard in prevention.”

Two months later, the DA said in a press release that the school had “just recently” amended its policy to highlight how important it is that authorities are immediately notified of suspected sexual abuse.

Between March and May, the handbook was edited so that it no longer stated the school would only report allegations to authorities if they appeared to be substantiated and to constitute criminal behavior.

The current policy, as described in Horace Mann’s family handbook, requires staff who suspect a colleague of abuse to report their concerns to their division head, who will consult with the head of school and then direct the complaint to a point person or member of the School’s Administrative Council for investigation. There are alternative reporting instructions if the head of school or division head is accused of misconduct or if staff choose to disclose concerns under a whistleblower policy. 

The handbook notes that whenever the school has “reasonable cause” to suspect that an employee abused a child, the head of school, trustees chair or counsel “shall immediately” report this to law enforcement authorities. 

The policy applies to incidents that occur on Horace Mann campuses, at school-sponsored events and on transportation provided by Horace Mann. 

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