Teachers urge a path to healing


In what was originally a letter to the editor of the student newspaper The Horace Mann Record, 14 former teachers urged the school to provide a path to healing for the community and open itself up to an investigation.


Letter from Horace Mann teachers
To The Horace Mann Record and administration:

When your old students — forever young to you — step up to call their alma mater to account, you must celebrate the justice of their cause and stand right there beside them.

Recent letters in The Horace Mann Record by distressed alumni, Marc Fisher’s article in The New Yorker, Amos Kamil’s 2012 New York Times Sunday Magazine and New York Magazine articles and now the publication of his “Great Is The Truth” document the revelations of sexual abuse at Horace Mann. All call on the school to abandon its misguided and heartless institutional defense and to do the right thing: embrace an independent investigation of what happened in its formerly hallowed halls.

As former teachers at Horace Mann in the dark then about decades of abusive faculty, our colleagues and predecessors, and sickened by the harms chased to ground by committed alumni, brave survivors and their friends, we are eager for the school to make public how it was possible for years of rampant sexual abuse by scores of predatory faculty to take place.

For instance, a male teacher in his forties brings a girl student to a faculty party: this is an enormous red flag, yet the abuser was not reprimanded by the department head or by faculty members or by anyone in the administration. How could this happen? What kind of school culture existed that prevented people from doing then what was morally right and from protecting our students, Horace Mann’s greatest asset? Why wouldn’t the school and its board want to hear all the truth, to look underneath that rock, to ensure it is doing now what is morally right? Its cornerstone will only become more secure when the rot is exposed.

The school’s current stonewalling, its retreat from a public airing of this miserable history, is a position difficult to justify when it insists at the same time on its good stewardship of the current student body. Willful, self-serving ignorance cannot be bliss nor bland, uninformed assurances reliable guarantees. But Horace Mann can be a great school when it not only gives its students an extraordinary academic education in a safe environment, but also when it examines and corrects the prevailing atmosphere that enabled these events to occur.

Publication of this letter is a strong step in the right direction.

Horace Mann faculty:
Maryanne Bonello Boettjer (1970 to 1978)
Joyce Fitzpatrick [Leana] (1974 to 1983)
Jo Anderson Strouss (1968 to 1984)
Gary J. Tharp (1968 to 1975 Barnard, English Department head; Horace Mann, 1975 to 1981)
Bruce Weber (1978 to 1981)
Cynthia Rivellini D’Urso (1978 to 1987)
Genevieve Castelain [Vergerio] (1983 to 1984)
Richard Warren (1965 to 1979)
Elisabeth Sperling (1990 to 2004)
Ricki Ivers Lopez (1970 to 1973)
Carmen San Miguel (1968 to 1971, 1987 to 1999)
Jane Genth (Horace Mann, 1987 to 1999; Riverdale Country School, 1962-1964; Fieldston, 1967-1983)
David Rocks (1983 to 1984)
Michael Passow, HM ’66 (1976 to 1985)

The signatories sent this letter to Horace Mann’s student newspaper, The Horace Mann Record, on Jan. 27, but received no confirmation it was published and editions posted online since then do not include the letter.



Nearly four years after the news of widespread sexual abuse at Horace Mann became public, a group of former faculty members have added their voices to the call for the school to cooperate with an independent investigation into the scandal.

“I can’t speak for the other signatories, but it seemed important to give support to those who have spoken up already,” said Joyce Fitzpatrick, who wrote an early draft of the letter. She taught at Horace Mann from 1974 to 1983.  “There have been letters in The Record from our students who are now adults, and that was part of the impetus,” she said.


Just as survivors need to know they are not alone, so do alumni and teachers.  Discovering the support of family, friends and classmates overcomes shame or fear and helps healing.  We all can find a path to speak up together, no longer alone, when the community moves toward open discussion, including the school leadership today.


Read the article here:  http://riverdalepress.com/stories/Former-HM-teachers-call-for-probe,59448?