Decades of Sexual Abuse at New York’s Horace Mann

The Elite New York City Prep School is distancing itself from unearthed allegations.

Amos Kamil graduated from Horace Mann in the Bronx in 1982, gives a harrowing insight into the monstrous school years for scores of boys. Amos begins by describing about the lush campus was a world away from his I.S. 144 in the Bronx, “Shortly after my arrival, a new friend walked me around the school, pointing out teachers to avoid. ‘What do you mean? Like, they’re hard graders?’ ‘No. Perverts. Stay away from them. Trust me.”

The former student of the prestigious school, has revealed decades of sexual abuse at the institution, accusing a string of teachers of vile behavior while suggesting others covered it up.

Kamil also documents the emotional turmoil the victims faced in the ensuing decades, with some even committing suicide when the school failed to act on their claims.

Mark Wright, an assistant football coach and art teacher at Horace Mann was described as “a Picasso in cleats.” Princeton-educated Wright who showed particular interest in a boy named Andrew. Wright asked Andrew‘s parents if he could take the teen to an art museum, but when Andrew turned down the invitation, the teacher instead said he wanted to paint a portrait of him after school.

‘I went to meet him in his art studio,’ Andrew told Kamil. ‘He locked the door and told me to undress.’

‘He told me to bring a bathing suit, but when I got there he said not to bother putting it on. I was really uncomfortable but did it anyway. [He said] he needed to see the connection between my legs.’ Wright then sexually assaulted the boy. ‘I was so scared,’ he remembered.

After the incident, Andrew said: ‘It was really hard being at Horace Mann, knowing that if I ran into him, he would get up really close to me and say stuff like: “What’s wrong, little buddy? You’re not still mad about that time, are you?”‘

Later, Andrew was summoned to the gym building for a ‘physical’. ‘[I] didn’t see any way out of it,’ he said. Once there, the teacher began molesting him immediately, he said. He told him to stop and left.

Wright also assaulted other boys, Kamil reported. Eventually one football player reported it and, after the school’s winter break, the teacher did not return to school. Wright died in 2004.

Johannes Somary, the head of the music department was Swiss-born world-renowned conductor. Somary befriended a boy identified as “M” and suggested they took a drive together.

“He then pulled me close to his chest,” M said. ‘Then he starts kissing my lips. I’m thinking, Oh, my God, this can’t be happening… I didn’t know what to do. I was just a child.’ Somary then unzipped the boy’s trousers and molested him. He started taking M on glee-club trips and then on solo trips to Europe. Where they stayed “at the best hotels, I met with the great classical musicians of the time and ate at the finest restaurants.”

“I was expected to have sex with him and did even though it repulsed me every time,” he said.

He told his parents he no longer wanted to sleep in the same room as his teacher. Somary visited his house ‘like a jilted lover’ and begged him to stay in his room, ‘right in front of my father,’ M said. The abuse continued into M‘s time at college. He added: ‘I don’t know why I let it go on for so long. I’ve been asking myself that for decades.’

One alum started a website about Johannes Somary. He had abused him in 1973, and decades later, that same teacher assaulted a Class of 1994 student, Benjamin Balter. Ben went on a music trip in 1993. Balter sent a letter to Phil Foote, then Horace Mann‘s headmaster, accusing Somary of “grossly inappropriate sexual advances.” Soon after, he tried to commit suicide with pills.

When his mother confronted the teacher, Somary said: ‘Ben kissed me first!’ When she said: ‘How dare you put your tongue down my son’s mouth!’ his replied: ‘That’s how we Swiss kiss.’

But after reporting it to the school, staff came out in support of the teacher and nothing was done. Ben killed himself in 2009 with antidepressants and alcohol. Of the abuse, M said: ‘I have been running from this thing most of my life.’

Somary continued working at the school until his retirement in 2002, when he was 67. He died last year.

Stan Kops, a history teacher who made kids uncomfortable whether he was punishing or rewarding them: he once penalized a student by making him take his shirt off in class and stand next to the window, and he would sometimes cancel class for “frolic” time, during which all of the kids — and Kops — would run around and, well, frolic in the classroom. “I was new in seventh grade and remember thinking that this was a different kind of school where a teacher was physically ‘handling’ me,” one man remembered. “I can remember him being kind of red and breathless after particularly vigorous frolicking.”

Kops, allegedly joined the boys in the showers after swimming practice. He finally resigned after a student reported a camping trip incident — Kops pressed against him in the dark and then took him aside the next morning, grabbed his own crotch, and said “What were you doing last night?” He later shot himself.

Kamil wrote “Several faculty members of that era said that, to their knowledge, the school said nothing – not to the students, not to their families and not to the police.”

The accusations raise questions about a culture of denial at Horace Mann, where annual fees are $40,000.

The school has said: ‘As an educational institution, we are deeply concerned if allegations of abuse of children are raised, regardless of when or where they may have occurred.’ It went on: ‘The article contains allegations dating back, in some instances, 30 years, long before the current administration took office, which makes it difficult to accurately respond to the factual allegations therein. ‘In addition, on June 13, 1984, there was a fire in the attic of the business office that destroyed some records.’

Kamil notes:

I have several friends who confided in me, back in high school, about their own sexual encounters with teachers, but who are now unwilling to talk about it. I can’t say I blame them.

A former board of trustees member told Kamil, “No one will talk to you. They are all lawyering up.”

Prep-School Predators [NYT Magazine]

About Horace Mann
Horace Mann School is an independent college preparatory school in New York City, founded in 1887. Horace Mann is a member of the Ivy Preparatory School League, educating students from all across the New York tri-state area from nursery school to the twelfth grade. The Upper, Middle, and Lower Divisions are located in Riverdale, a neighborhood of the Bronx.

Tuition for the 2011-2012 school year is $37,275. Forbes Magazine ranks Horace Mann as the second best preparatory school in the country.

Worth magazine ranked it seventh out of all the nation’s high schools based on the proportion of graduates attending Harvard, Yale and Princeton Universities

Notable Alumni:

Roy Cohn, Valentine Davies, Jerry Speyer, Robert Tishman, Eliot Spitzer, Ira Levin, James Murdoch, Jack Kerouac, Seymour Durst and William P. Barr.

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