By Jenny Anderson (New York Times)
August 3, 2012
A group affiliated with the leadership of the Horace Mann School is forming a nonprofit organization to help alumni who say they were victims of sexual abuse by teachers, a school board member said on Friday.
The nonprofit group will be called the Hilltop Cares Foundation, and it will be independent of the school’s administration and its board of trustees. The group seeks “to assist those affected by the issues arising from allegations of abuse at the Horace Mann School and to study related issues in the broader community,” the board member, Joe Rose, said in an e-mail. Mr. Rose is among the people forming the nonprofit organization, but he would not say who else was involved beyond that it was a “group of concerned community members.” Two people briefed on the formation of the group said it included several board members.
In June, an article in The New York Times Magazine exposed a pattern of sexual abuse of students by teachers in the 1990s and earlier, igniting a firestorm of emotion and reaction among alumni of the prestigious private school, located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. One alumni Facebook page set up after the article has drawn more than 2,000 members. The abuse detailed in the magazine was perpetrated by teachers who are now dead. Since the article, however, some alumni have made allegations against teachers who have left the school but who are alive. One teacher admitted in an interview with The Times to having had sex with “two or three” of his students.
Some alumni groups have called on the school to pay for therapy and to offer compensation to the abuse victims. It was unclear on Friday how much money the nonprofit group would be given by its backers, or how that money would be spent.
A spokesman for Horace Mann said the school supported Mr. Rose’s initiative. “The board and the school applaud the establishment of such entities and will help disseminate information about how to make contributions or request help,” he said.
A group of survivors expressed mixed emotions. “We welcome any and all initiatives that individuals are willing to undertake on our behalf,” said a statement issued by Alan G. Ampolsk, an alumnus who is working with the abuse victims.
But the statement also made it clear that the effort would not satisfy their requests for an independent investigation and an apology from the school, among other things.
“We note that no individual act can substitute for action by the school itself,” the statement said. “We continue to ask that the Horace Mann School administration and board of trustees honor our request for an apology, compensation and an independent investigation.”
Some alumni have speculated that the school has been reluctant to set up its own fund because it does not want to admit wrongdoing and expose itself to liability, though most legal experts say that because of New York’s statutes of limitations, which require lawsuits be brought before a victim turns 23, any suit would be hard to win.