As school reopens, students wrote in Horace Mann’s weekly paper of the report on decades-long abuse commissioned by alumni. An administrator was quoted as saying it contained “nothing substantially new,” despite the school’s refusal to investigate or discuss any of the lessons learned from its own understanding or files. In the following issue, the paper printed this letter to the editor from alumni in response:
“Dismissing the alumni report as containing nothing new overlooks important contributions and a vital opportunity. First, there is now an actual report in one place with recommendations based on investigation. Second, it includes practices endorsed by administrators to make school safer today. Third, it includes a list of reports made to the school in order to diagnose how to improve early warnings, prescribe practical methods to heal similar events and limit damage. Fourth, school heads and boards are using it to improve their education and prevention systems.
More central, as the alumni of HM have taken a leading role in a national effort to address abuse in schools, an opportunity is open for the administration to join with alumni in helping all schools benefit from the lessons learned. Surely all members of the community share the goal of making school safe, whatever our differences may be.
We should join together to eliminate the gaping loopholes in mandated reporting identified by the Bronx DA. We should help current and future survivors by supporting the Child Victims Act as endorsed by experts. We can recognize the systemic conditions that enabled abuse at HM and make sure they are removed in our school and all schools. As a next step, we should meet and speak openly together to show our community that nothing that has happened in the past should be feared and that however awkward and however painful discussing sexual abuse can be, discussing it can only help us and certainly cannot hurt us.
The report can be found online at MakingSchoolSafe.com
Peter Brooks, HM ‘66 ”
The initial article appears here:
It remains to be seen what proportion of teachers have read the report or are even aware of it. Beyond the value of the narrative history of accounts it contains, the report puts in one place best practices and recommendations for prevention which all teachers should know. It also includes key questions parents can ask to understand the policies and systems in place at their own child’s school and to engage administrators in ongoing conversation. That discussion is far easier now than after any tragic event.
As Horace Mann prepares for its annual Homecoming day and assorted class reunions, how do the survivors of abuse feel about coming “home”? What efforts have been made to welcome them?