According to one former student of the Horace Mann School in New York, several members of the faculty sexually abused teens over a span of at least sixteen years, and possibly more. Just as disturbing are the claims that even after some kids came forward with their horrifying tales, the administration didn’t take action to remove one offender from campus.
The stories are painstakingly detailed in a New York Times article written by Amos Kamil, who experienced odd encounters with at least two faculty members but never endured the abuse some of his friends did. Kamil says the stories came out when he and his buddies were on a camping trip, several years after graduation. Sitting around the campfire that night, the tales poured forth. Some of the men were relieved to get the stories off their minds and found they could take comfort in one another by sharing their terrifying encounters. As soon as one brave soul offered a story about their former football coach, others gathered their courage to share.
No one knew what to say, at least at first, Kamil writes. But then slowly, the rest of us started telling stories, too. One of the guys talked about a teacher who took him on a field trip, and then invited him into his bed in the hotel room they were sharing. (My friend fled, walking in the rain for hours until the coast seemed clear.) Another told a story about a teacher who got him drunk and naked; that time, no one fled.
At least three other teachers were implicated in the stories, and Kamil found that the more he dug into the school’s past, the more people he found who were willing to talk about their experiences there. The school, however, declined to comment on much of it, and those who came forward with stories only did so on the condition that their identity would remain anonymous. Kamil relates how two of the teachers were fired after a few brave kids came forward to administration and relayed their tales of abuse, some of which actually occurred at the school. One of those teachers later shot himself with no explanation; some are under the belief that it was an admission of guilt.
A third teacher, a respected professor of music, was also singled out by several kids as a sexual predator, but for some reason, the school never saw fit to take action against him. He remained employed there until his retirement in 2002. Johannes Somary’s behavior towards his students was odd enough to cause his colleagues to talk, yet no one raised the alarm about him, Kamil says.
These teachers saw enough to make them wonder and even to worry. Yet when the school chose not to act, none of them shouted from the rooftop for help. They came to work the next day, as they had the day before. Teachers had strong incentives not to speak: their jobs were on the line, as was the reputation of an institution in which they had invested some degree of their identities.
Even after one of his students came forward with allegations of horrifying abuse during school trips, no action was taken other than to keep Somary from chaperoning those trips by himself. The student fell into a deep depression and eventually committed suicide, which his family is certain happened because of Somary.
With the recent stories about former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky and so many men coming forward with graphic and terrifying tales of his sexual abuse, many victims are now gathering their strength to come forward with their own tales. The question of whether or not these predators are punished fairly is being brought up quite a bit, and in the case of the Horace Mann School–which employed a man to “recruit” young people without means to the prestigious institution, who even helped pay some tuitions out of his own pocket–the answers aren’t easily forthcoming. After so many years, the statute of limitations has long passed on filing charges against the men, at least one of whom is dead.
Only time will tell what will become of the victims in these stories, and whether they will see justice served after so many years.
Image credit: Horace Mann School