On Oct 16th, the HM Record printed a seriously flawed article about the dedication event at Homecoming, wrongly portraying the support of survivors and by me without having contacting us. The school mailed the edition to all parents.
I was surprised to read an article about the re-dedication. Even more to be quoted and mis-identified. I called around and discovered that none of the others quoted had been interviewed either. What’s more, it turns out the event described didn’t take place. So I wrote the editor of the Record and have since learned the following:
The editor informed the faculty advisor of “significant problems with the recent article,” and that “quotes in the article were falsely attributed.” The advisor agreed this was extremely troubling, that the administration was taking the matter very seriously, promising a full explanation when available and to issue a corrections statement in the next issue. She declined my request to meet in person at HM. The original article and the corrections in the following issue are uploaded below.
Why these three people, from among all alumni? Who chose them? Why was no call made to each of us? How did the story itself come to be? Who commissioned the author? With whom did author speak? Who fact-checked? The student reporter(s) made an error as did others at the school who, knowing the people and issues far better, should have intervened. The reporter(s) should not be faulted if the story was provided to them by others.
The reporter’s reference to me as a survivor appears to have been based on the mistaken assumption that my work with HMAC is motivated by my personal experiences. Like many of my fellow alumni – both survivors and their classmates – I am motivated by a belief that what happened needs to come to light if justice is to be served and future harm avoided. Because the school has declined to take responsible action we are doing so ourselves, with a broad base of support from the Horace Mann community.
The school’s response is additionally troubling as it immediately follows alumni letters to the editor of the Record offering a path for the school leaders to join with alumni to reconcile divisions in the community. An inclusive dedication could have been meaningful progress.
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The school squandered a valuable opportunity to heal the community and join with alumni at Homecoming on the field. From my perspective, the school didn’t plan an inclusive, meaningful ceremony to include the survivors, because the school hasn’t taken necessary precursor steps. They threw it onto a schedule without a lot of care or thought, and then there was either no ceremony or, at best, no ceremony that those who’d have wanted to attend could attend as a practical matter. Well-intended people were there and were left standing around – stood up after they thought they were invited on a date. The schedule showed a time set for a ceremony. For whatever reason, any ceremony was very small. If no event was intended, why run the article in the Record citing the approval of survivors in the first place?
Renaming is one step forward. Doing it alone is forgetting and excludes those harmed, not truly re-dedicating to all. “Alumni Field” is just a sign when what’s still missing is the truth and real engagement. Why wasn’t the school’s event more like the analogous Poly Prep event, which seemed to be more unifying? Because there, the whole community found the strength to overcome fear and pain and work through some hard owning up together to make that solemn ceremony possible.
HM can hold a dedication which heals after first undertaking the prerequisite of any honest accounting. Then meet with survivors and those interested in the planning, invite students and alumni and join together in a dedication with true meaning.