By Javier C. Hernandez (New York Times)
April 26, 2013
The Bronx district attorney’s office said Friday it could not pursue any cases of alleged sexual abuse at Horace Mann, an elite private school in the Bronx, because the statute of limitations had been exceeded.
A 10-month investigation by the district attorney, prompted by an article in The New York Times Magazine in June, identified at least 12 possible abusers, more than had previously been accused.
The alleged abuse took place over four decades, with the most recent case occurring in 1996, the district attorney, Robert T. Johnson, said in a statement. New York’s statute of limitations requires that criminal charges or lawsuits in such cases be filed before the accuser turns 23.
Investigators interviewed 60 people in California, Colorado, New York and Vermont, and 25 of them said they had been abused by an employee of Horace Mann.
The earliest case was reported to have occurred in 1962, investigators said, though the majority of cases were said to have taken place in the 1970s. The accusations included inappropriate behavior and criminal sexual acts, the district attorney said.
The investigators’ report documents an unseemly — and until relatively recently, unknown — chapter in the history of one of New York City’s most acclaimed educational institutions.
Alumni of Horace Mann have called on the school to issue a sweeping apology and cooperate with an independent investigation. Robert S. Boynton, a spokesman for Horace Mann Action Coalition, a group of alumni, called the district attorney’s report “damning.”
“I don’t know how much more explicit we have to be to get Horace Mann to recognize how dramatic this information is,” he said.
The Horace Mann School, through a spokesman, declined to comment.
The district attorney’s office said it would seek changes to what it called “alarming” gaps in state law. It noted that state law requires teachers and principals to report abuse by parents and guardians, but not by school employees. In addition, while public school employees are required to report allegations of child abuse immediately, private school employees are not.
Assemblywoman Margaret M. Markey, a Democrat of Queens, said she was optimistic that a bill she sponsored to eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual abuse of children would pass.
“It’s simply wrong to sexually abuse a child, period,” she said. “No excuses. No trying to talk your way out of it.”
Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, who worked with the district attorney to set up Horace Mann abuse hot lines, said she would urge state lawmakers to act. “The Horace Mann case has refocused us all on the need for tightening loopholes,” she said.
In September, Horace Mann added a policy on reporting child abuse to its handbook for families. At the suggestion of investigators, it included language emphasizing that employees should report accusations of child abuse immediately.
In March, the school reached a settlement with about 27 of 32 students who had come forward with allegations of abuse.