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Horace Mann Abuse Claims Too Old to Prosecute, D.A. Says

The alleged sexual abuse of students at New York prep school Horace Mann took place too long ago to be prosecuted, Bronx prosecutors said.

Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson, whose county includes the Horace Mann campus, said in a statement today that all instances of sexual abuse alleged at the school from 1962 to 1996 fall outside the statute of limitations,

Before August 1996, the cutoff had been five years for all felonies other than homicides and two years for misdemeanors. The statute was expanded that month to allow child sex crimes to be prosecuted within five years after the victim’s 18th birthday or the case was reported to authorities. The deadline was eliminated for all class B felonies classified as sex offenses, Johnson’s office said.

“Neither of these legislative changes provides any recourse for a prosecution of any act of past sexual abuse at Horace Mann which has currently been reported,” Johnson said. Reviving a claim after the deadline has passed would violate the U.S. Constitution, Johnson said, citing Supreme Court precedent.

Johnson’s office began a probe of the allegations after they were reported in the New York Times magazine in June 2012, setting up a hotline for victims and others, communicating with Horace Mann administrators and reviewing the school’s abuse reporting policies and procedures.

Thirty Calls

The office received about 30 calls and conducted more than 60 separate interviews, more than 25 with alleged victims, and traveled to states including California, Colorado and Vermont to speak with people, Johnson said.

The interviews “reveal a systemic pattern of alleged abuse beyond what was outlined in the original New York Times magazine article,” Johnson said. “We received direct information regarding at least 12 separate alleged abusers. The reported abuse ranges from what may be characterized as inappropriate behavior to child endangerment, actual instances of sexual conduct, sexual intercourse and criminal sexual acts.”

The earliest abuse reported at Horace Mann was said to occur in 1962 and while the majority of the acts allegedly happened in the 1970s, there were additional instances reported from the 1980s and 1990s, Johnson’s office said.

Horace Mann officials and Paul Browne, a spokesman for the New York City Police Department, didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the district attorney’s statement. Thomas R. Kelly, the head of school, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

‘Developmental Unit’

With more than 1,800 students today, the school, located just east of the Hudson River, was founded as a coeducational “experimental and developmental unit” of the Teachers College of Columbia University and became an independent day school for boys in grades 7-12 in 1947, according to its website. It became coed again in 1968.

The school is named after Horace Mann, a former U.S. representative from Massachusetts who played a “leading role in establishing the elementary school system in the United States,” according to its website. Alumni include former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York State Supreme Court at 8969 or cdolmetsch@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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