Investigation finds "pattern" of past abuse at New York school

NEW YORK Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:54pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City investigators have uncovered a pattern of sexual abuse of children at the prestigious Horace Mann School between the 1960s and 1990s, but the complaints are now too old to prosecute under the statute of limitations, the Bronx District Attorney's office said on Friday.

The district attorney's office began an investigation of abuse allegations and set up a hotline last June following a New York Times Magazine article that accused some former teachers at the prep school in the Bronx of molesting and raping male students.

As a result, police and investigators interviewed 25 former students who said they had been sexually abused by school employees. At least 12 unnamed former school employees were accused of being involved in the abuse, Robert Johnson, the Bronx District Attorney, said in a statement.

"The interviews conducted by The Bronx District Attorney's Office and the NYPD reveal a systemic pattern of alleged abuse beyond what was outlined in the original New York Times Magazine article," Johnson said in his statement.

"The reported abuse ranges from what may be characterized as inappropriate behavior to child endangerment, actual instances of sexual contact, sexual intercourse and criminal sexual acts," he added.

The instances of alleged sexual abuse occurred between 1962 and 1996, with the majority of abuse reported to have happened in the 1970s, he said. There is evidence that some school officials during this period were aware of the abuse but did not report it to the police, he said.

Current New York state law in most cases gives victims of child sex abuse only until they are 23 years old to make a complaint.

The school did not respond to requests for comment on Friday. In a letter to past and present members of the school last August, the school's board of trustees said they were "appalled and saddened" by the allegations.

The school has said that none of the accused employees still work at the school - at least one has died - and that it is working to improve safeguards against similar incidents happening in the future.

Tek Young Lin, an English teacher at the school until 1986, told the New York Times last year he had sex with around three of his male students, suggesting, to the dismay of many alumni, it was simply a different era back then. The school subsequently removed his name from the chairmanship of the department, which had been named in his honor.

Earlier this year, the school paid settlements worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to most members of a group of 32 students who said they had been abused, local media reported.

The Horace Mann Action Coalition, a group of concerned alumni formed in the wake of last year's article, said on Friday it was grateful for the investigation. It also called for a change in what it called the state's "archaic" statute of limitations, and asked for the school's board to apologize for past events and cooperate with the coalition's investigation into the accusations.

Johnson, the district attorney, also said he would be working to widen the state's mandatory reporting law, saying that there is a gap in the current law which means that employees at private schools, unlike those at public schools, are not mandated to contact law enforcement agencies if they suspect a colleague is abusing children.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Paul Thomasch)

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