After years of keeping their experiences secret, graduates speak up
New York’s Horace Mann School was not quite a safe haven for students and their friends in 1978. Horace Mann is an instance where someone in a position of authority is expected to be trustworthy but only shocks and disappoints.
Amos Kamil writes in The New York Times of his classmates’ closeted experiences of sexual abuse at Horace Mann. Of those instances is one where a student was invited into a hotel bed by his teacher, forcing him to endure hours of rain in his escape. Another instance at Horace Mann involves a teacher named Mark Wright, whom all his students admired for his sense of humor and intelligence. This particular teacher manipulated a student into stripping completely to “paint his portrait” and proceeded to give him oral sex. The student was left dumbfounded and never reported the incident to Horace Mann administration.
Another student narrowly avoided sexual abuse from Wright during a physical examination. Only one student reported an incident with him, emphasizing that the physical contact lasted a short time.
Kamil also reports of an instance when boundaries were blurred between teacher and student upon a night at dinner together. Principal Inky Clark offered Kamil, 17, and his friend, Eric, a drink. At the time, the drinking age was 19, but Kamil and Eric took advantage of this golden opportunity, the strangeness of it only crossing their minds briefly.
The sexual abuse at Horace Mann was kept under wraps by the school, even when incidents were reported to them by students. On the offenses, Kekst and Company, a corporate public-relations firm told Kamil, “The current administration is not in a position to comment on the events involving former and, in some cases, now-deceased, faculty members that are said to have occurred years before we assumed leadership of the school. It should be noted that Horace Mann School has terminated teachers based on its determination of inappropriate conduct, including but not limited to certain of the individuals named in your article.”
Audrey Ference argues in The L Magazine that the avoidance of sexual abuse reports is an ordinary occurrence. Ference writes, “Even the brutal gang rape of an 11-year-old girl is not free of people trying to make excuses for the rapists, to cover up what happened. This is the world we live in,” adding, “It’s important for us to hear these stories, and to understand that these things happen even in “elite” institutions.”