Horace Mann Prep Students Say Sex Abuse Went on for Decades

Thursday, June 07, 2012

education, classroom, school, school supplies, class, teachers, students (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Sex abuse was reportedly covered up at the elite private school Horace Mann — whose alums include Eliot Spitzer and James Murdoch, according to a shocking new report.

In a story out Sunday, The New York Times Magazine reports that the $37,275-a-year Riverdale school never told authorities about alleged incidents of molestation involving teachers and coaches between 1978 and 1994.

The piece, written by a Horace Mann alum, was based on conversations with 100 people – including 60 former students and 15 current or former faculty members, according to the author.

There were no allegations of recent abuse.

Author Amos Kamil, who was not a victim of abuse, told WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show on Thursday that years after graduation his classmates revealed teachers had acted inappropriately.

“We all had many boundary-blurring experiences from going out drinking with our teachers to being approached,” he said. “After Penn State happened it sort of hit me, ‘Wow, we lived through something like this as well.’”

At least one alleged victims traces drinking and drug problems back to the abuse. And one student who was allegedly abused for years committed suicide. When the deceased boy’s mother confronted his alleged abuser, the head of the arts and music department, she told the Times he was unflinching:

“Ben kissed me first,” she says he told her. When she demanded, “How dare you put your tongue down my son’s mouth!” his reply, she says, was, “That’s how we Swiss kiss.

A man indentified as M., now in his 50s, said the same teacher took him on a drive and parked near a tennis club.

“He them pulled me close to his chest,’ M. said. ‘I’m thinking: This is weird. Uncomfortable. Then he starts kissing my lips. I’m thinking, Oh, my God, this can’t be happening. I didn’t know what to do. I was just a child. I didn’t have the ego strength to say no. I was shocked, uncomfortable, but I let it persist.”

In a statement to the Times, the school said:

“Horace Mann School today has in place clearly articulated and enforced rules, regulations, policies, procedures and expectations concerning appropriate behavior within the community — including whistle-blower protections to ensure that any member of the school community can freely report alleged violations.”


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Comments [13]

jeremy szold ginzberg from OREGON

im an hm grad class of 69.
its all true.
and its all criminal.
and the education wasnt all that great.
berman, the worst of an awful lot and probably involved with a classmates suicide, gave short-answer tests on moby dick.

and theyre not all dead, and they should be sued.

the world will not be safe until the last private school is bulldozed along with the last catholic church but in the meantime let em pay.

if hes alive, i love the idea of tek lin losing his pension. somary is dead but berman putatively lives on in some mansion his acolytes got hiM in westchester. the sad joke i like to tell folks is that they sit around reading neitzche (SP!)but if youre late for dinner 'NO VASELINE FOR YOU'

Jun. 18 2012 06:11 AM
Ruth from NYC

Institutional snobbery is a characteristic of Horace Mann. No school deserves a pass for fine academics if children are abused, sexually, physically or emotionally.

Jun. 09 2012 08:40 PM
june hall

This school has a very high paid attorney that will cover up any scandal that comes their way. It may be a great education for some but money and connections are the primarily goal at this institution. The attitude conveyed is the teacher has either been fired or dead so who cares?

Jun. 08 2012 10:26 AM
BrendaTNYC from New York City

As long as we allow anyone with a master's degree and state certification into our schools we will continue to have problems. The majority of teachers are not pedophiles, far from it. But it's not exactly rocket science that a pedophile is attracted to professions which have them surrounded by children. Many corporations mandate psychological testing during the hiring process. All child workers (teachers, camp counselors, daycare workers. etc.) should have to pass a psychological test designed to flag immature adults and potential pedophiles. This won't prevent children from being harmed, but it will at least be a start.

Jun. 08 2012 09:02 AM

I wish M from NYC and all the other Horace Mann parents who were "aware of the inappropriate behavior of the bizarre music teacher" had done a little more than just be grateful their own children escaped being his victims. Other people's children weren't so lucky.

Jun. 07 2012 09:30 PM
Liz from NYC from NYC

When I heard about this at first I thought it was old news.

The reason is that my older brother was a protege of sorts of "Ink" Clark, who was his camp counselor (my brother is now 68) at a Boy Scout camp in Westport, NY on Lake Champlain.

My brother stayed in touch with Ink while Ink was at Yale, where Ink had encouraged him to go (he went to Williams instead). Over the years I heard all about Ink, including his fondness for young boys. I wondered why my brother did not get it. Where else but boys' camps do pedophiles hang out? My late father, an alumnus of both Camp Dudley and Yale, also loved Ink. I grew tired of hearing of him, and now, it is clear what this man did to young boys in his care. None of his other accomplishments matters; he condoned behavior that led to ruined lives and suicides.

When will the world wake up? The priests, the teachers, the whole lot, deserve to be in jail.

Jun. 07 2012 06:23 PM

Old Blue: I really hate when people try to separate an abuser from his crimes. 'Whetever else he was he was a brilliant musician." what's your point?

Baseball Mama: I think (hope) that Nitram was being sarcastic

Jun. 07 2012 04:52 PM
Old Blue from NYC

In the late 50's I lived next door to Johannes Somary in a Yale residential college. The only times I saw him was when he emerged at high speed from his room, loudly humming a Bach cantata, on his way to a class in the Music Dept. Years later I heard him conduct the choir of St. Vincent Ferrer several times in Manhattan. Whatever else he was, he was a brilliant musician. After his death, his son took over the baton at St. Vincent Ferrer.

Jun. 07 2012 02:07 PM
Baseball Mama from NJ

I did not hear this broadcast but read the article in the Times and knew this story was about to hit. To the person who said they don't understand "what the fuss" is about, "let bygones be bygones," and "it's time to move on," is either sociopathic or delusional because this was child rape that led to drug abuse, depression and suicide. THAT is what the "fuss" is about.

Jun. 07 2012 12:58 PM
PiaM from The Land of Brooklyn

I too was FURIOUS at the caller. What was his purpose?!!! If it was to question the allegations then his call would have been pertinent to the discussion. To state he was never a victim left me going “you were one of the lucky ones.” For the record, I am not a HM alum. I am just an avid NPR listener. As the writer said, the article is not an attempt to smear HM. It is an effort to end the secrecy and shame, to bring about reform and hold abusers accountable. Whether it is public or an illustrious private school should not matter. What matters are our children’s mental and physical well-being. Furthermore I’d like to say Brian’s comments regarding gay behavior in the context of child molestation was/is totally inappropriate. I am sure he did not mean too imply pedophiles are gay. Gay people are not pedophiles. Pedophiles are not gay. Pedophiles have sexual interest in children. It is a sexual disorder.

Jun. 07 2012 11:53 AM

I can't see what people are making such a big fuss about -- it's just a few bad apples, nothing more. OK, so maybe one _was_ the headmaster and another the most famous faculty member and department chair who taught for forty years despite widespread suspicion. Can't we just let bygones be bygones? The school says things have changed -- let's just give them the benefit of the doubt and be done with it. To paraphrase the headmaster who fired one of the most notorious abusers, "It's time to move on."

Jun. 07 2012 11:05 AM
Ranica from New Jersey

The critic of the Horace Mann article who called in – what was his point? HE wasn’t abused, and the teachers seemed so “nice,” that the article was unfair? Every rapist has a circle of family and friends who will claim to the death that he was a “nice guy.” “Nice guys” are exactly who are sexual predators. 1 out of 5 kids (1/4 girls, 1/7 boys) will be abused in their lifetime – do you think this vast, vast number of sexual abusers all present as evil sociopaths? NO. They are all NICE GUYS to SOMEONE. That commenter made me furious.

Jun. 07 2012 10:59 AM
M from NYC

I had two daughters at Horace Mann over a period of 15 years. One of my children was deeply involved in the music and theater departments and was well aware of the inappropriate behavior of the bizarre music teacher, Johannes Somary. Neither of my children was the victim of any form of abuse and they both received superb educations. Given the revelations of your guest, I am grateful my children were female in this instance.

As awful as this story is, I am disturbed at the implication that there is something unique about HM. Ironically, HM produces alumni who are talented and well connected enough to have their horrific stories placed on the front page of the New York Times. In my elite suburban public school in the 1970s, I can assure you there were underage girls in sexual relationships with teachers there and a music teacher who fondled ninth grade boys.

Jun. 07 2012 10:51 AM

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