Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

N.J. Judge Allows Abuse Trial to Go On

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

N.J. Judge Allows Abuse Trial to Go On

Article excerpt

A lawsuit alleging prolonged sexual abuse by a teacher at the Horace Mann School in New York may proceed in New Jersey, a state judge sitting in Bergen County ruled Friday.

Attorneys had argued that New Jersey courts did not have jurisdiction over the school, which is in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

But Superior Court Judge Lisa Perez Friscia ruled that because the unnamed plaintiff -- who alleged that he was assaulted about 450 times in the 1970s by a music teacher at the school -- says three of the assaults occurred on official school trips to New Jersey, the case can go forward here.

The victim, now in his 50s, alleges that Horace Mann failed to protect students from a teacher it knew was abusing children. The decision could open the door for other victims to sue, said attorney Rosemarie Arnold, who is representing the plaintiff.

"They tried to get off on a technicality," Arnold said of the school. "Now they have to answer questions about what happened and why they didn't stop it."

The court's decision allows the lawsuit to move forward against the institution, but dismissed allegations against Thomas Kelly, the current headmaster, and a number of trustees. In response to phone calls and emails seeking comment, the school issued a written statement on Saturday.

'Strong defenses'

"Horace Mann is gratified that the court dismissed the individual defendants from the case," the statement read. "Although Horace Mann does not believe that the court was correct in determining that the school was subject to specific personal jurisdiction for acts that allegedly took place in New Jersey over 40 years ago, the school has very strong defenses and remains highly confident that it will prevail in this action."

The ruling stands to add to a scandal that began in June 2012, when a number of former Horace Mann students alleged in a story in The New York Times Magazine that teachers at the school had sexually abused them more than a generation ago. When they or their parents complained, the former students said, school administrators allegedly responded by intimidating some complainants and ignoring others. …

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