Responding to Reports of Sexual Abuse of Students, Past and Present


If anything good has come from the Horace Mann story it is that other schools and survivors groups seem to be trying a different approach. Communities are refusing to allow silence from school officials.

Pingry survivors: “We have not filed a lawsuit.  Instead, we are making every effort to avoid litigation. To that end, we have instructed our attorneys to explore The Pingry School’s willingness to engage in a collaborative resolution process. ”

The statement by Pingry officials, “Our hope is for this investigation to be as thorough as possible, putting (the school) in the best position to provide support to victims and take appropriate steps to protect children today.”

Peck school hires outside firm to investigate and asks alumni and students to come forward with information:

St. George’s school board meets with survivors in direct face to face talks.


Motto of Horace Mann: Great is the Truth and It Prevails
“Great is the Truth and It Prevails”

Other schools are trying – and at Horace Mann?  Watch a video of Amos Kamil speaking on restorative justice at the Hilltop concert for survivors at Horace Mann, May 14th, 2016.


It’s worse than anyone imagined:


How can schools respond best today to confront legacies of abuse?

The administration at Exeter sent this letter to the community. Note they hired independent counsel to investigate, review policies and procedures, examine the school’s handling of the news, and they are looking at organizations to support victims’ needs. Seems there is a responsible playbook, after all.

“Lyn Schollett, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said transparency is key. She said administrators at Phillips Exeter failed in that obligation after they learned about Schubart’s past sexual misconduct. “We think that once they knew about this, and he had acknowledged that he engaged in this conduct, that the school should have communicated in a forthright manner with students, faculty and staff.”

Following a 14 year old survivor reporting abuse the previous night by a teacher in 1973 to school officials …

“The men (then Exeter principal Richard Day, several other school leaders on campus and Hank DeSantis, uncle of the victim) all agreed the best way to handle the matter was to “keep it as quiet as possible and make it go away,” according to DeSantis. The police were never mentioned. Normally, the statute of limitations on sexual assault allegations would expire 22 years after the victim’s 18th birthday. But Peekel’s decision to leave New Hampshire stopped the clock, allowing Exeter police to bring charges decades later.”


What’s expected has changed – alerting authorities, students, parents and asking alumni to report:

“I think people would look at it and they’d say the school should be held accountable if they knew of the behavior,” says Rhode Island State Police Maj. Joseph F. Philbin, detective commander.  “Were the proper people notified of this misconduct? What steps did they take, if any? Was the student body notified? Were the parents of the student body notified?” Philbin said.  The failure to report sexual abuse, or known sexual abuse, can be prosecuted as a felony, said Philbin.


Association tells school administrators to listen  –  5/17/16 — TABS on legacy abuse

“I believe that independent school communities, including students, parents and alumni, along with the news media and those active on social media, are increasingly expecting independent schools to respond to reports of past abuse in the same way they respond to present reports, regardless of whether the perpetrator is an adult or a student. They expect the reports to be promptly investigated and appropriate remedial action to be taken. They expect the school to be transparent and accountable in its response. Schools that are not alert to these attitudes and expectations, and are not prepared to act accordingly, are at risk of significant adverse legal repercussions and damage to their reputations.”

( David Wolowitz is the co-chair of the McLane Middleton law firm’s Education Law Practice Group. His practice focuses on the representation of independent schools. He is a pioneer in introducing training on professional boundaries to independent schools. David regularly consults with schools nationally and internationally on issues relating to student safety, risk prevention and crisis response. )


When Pennsylvania finds decades of abuse in a school, it investigates. When New York finds decades of abuse in a school (and a dozen others), it shrugs.

As the grand jury investigation into nearly six decades of alleged child sexual abuse by Solebury School faculty continues, some victims are taking their stories to Harrisburg to call for lawmakers to adopt proposed legislation that would expand criminal and civil statute of limitations.