July 26, 2012
The sex scandal at one of New York City’s most elite high schools is growing. CBS 2 has uncovered more alleged victims, bringing the total number of people who say they were abused to a whopping 30.
So, how did it go on for so many decades without anyone taking action?
That’s the question surrounding the prestigious Horace Mann School, CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian reported exclusively Thursday.
For the first time in more than 30 years five former students have broken their silence about their abuse at the hands of their teachers. Now, they want the school to take a stand.
“They are pedophiles, plain and simple. They are pedophiles and they are predators,” one victim told Dardashtian said.
More than three decades have passed since they graduated from high school, but the five former students said they are just now coming to terms with what happened. They said they wanted to tell their stories but weren’t ready to show their faces to CBS 2 cameras.
“I was so conflicted, so ashamed, so full of guilt and remorse that it literally took 30 years for me to be able to remember and talk about it openly,” one victim said.
They attended Horace Mann, one of the most prestigious schools in the country.
“Getting into Horace Mann made you special, just by default,” a victim said.
It’s a school so selective that students felt they were literally being groomed for greatness.
“You know, we were always told that we were cream of the crop and you always wanted to be cream of the cream,” a victim said.
It was in that intimate prep school environment that they said the people they idolized and trusted most, sexually abused them.
“He took away my childhood. We talked about our personal lives with our teachers. They knew us. They knew what was going on with our parents, who was getting divorced. So they planted seeds and they watched and they waited and they developed relationships and then they pounced,” a victim said.
The five Dardashtian spoke with are part of a group of nearly 30 graduates from the 1960s to the ‘90s who say they were preyed upon by Horace Mann faculty. Faculty like music chairman Johannes Somary, who died last year.
“He did many generous and good things for me, took me into his hone when I needed a place to stay, and then when he began to abuse me, I didn’t want to believe that it could be abuse. I kept trying to find ways to convince myself that maybe it was innocent,” a victim said.
Football coach Mark Wright and history teacher Stanley Kops are both named as abusers, as are many more who are still alive, like Tek Young Lin, who admitted having sexual contact with three students. He can’t be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired.
“I now know a dozen abusers, a dozen abusers and counting,” a victim said.
“I think the culture at Horace Mann was unique in that there was such a pool of abusers in one place at one time for so many years,” another victim said.
“The chair of the guidance department of the school was one of the abusers and was actively covering up abuse. The chaplain of the school was one of the abusers and so the question arises: to whom will you come forward?” a victim said.
It was a time, they said, when no one knew who to trust.
“I now know of two cases where students were being abused by one teacher and were summoned to see the chair of the guidance department and the chair of the guidance department proceeded to sexually violate them in that meeting,” a victim said.
CBS 2 has obtained letters from several students who said they notified administrators that teachers molested them. They said they were ignored or worse. The current administration has refused CBS 2’s repeated attempts for an on-camera interview. In a statement, the school called the allegations “troubling and upsetting” and said it has terminated teachers in the past for “inappropriate conduct.”
“Those were the teachers who were amateurs; those were the teachers that were easy to fire,” one victim said.
“In other cases, in full awareness of the abuse, the school chose to not terminate those teachers and cover it up,” a victim said.
The school went on to say that it “supports and will cooperate with any criminal prosecution of teachers, administrators or others who could be held responsible for hurting children.”
CBS 2 also obtained a letter sent to parents last month. In it, the school said it conducts aggressive background checks on teachers.
“The school could have prevented my abuse and the abuse of others after me,” a victim said.
However, these former students said they want much more. They want a full investigation, an apology and compensation for what they say were years of trauma.
“Horace Mann has an opportunity to be a leader, to show how Penn State got it wrong. They have an opportunity now to say this is an institution that should tackle this problem, with truth,” a victim said.
“‘Great is the truth and it prevails’ is the school’s motto,” another said.
A motto they hope still rings true all these years later.
The graduates said the board of trustees has not responded to their letters, but in a statement the school revealed plans for the headmaster and board chairman to meet with the group in the near future.