Updated 03/21/2013 10:40 PM
Former Horace Mann Student Alleges Long-Term Sexual Abuse From Teacher
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A Bergen County man in his 50s who claims he was sexually abused by a music teacher from the prestigious Horace Mann School in the Bronx during the 1970s is now suing the private school's faculty, saying they allegedly allowed the abuse to take place and prevented students and the public from learning the truth.
This is the latest of a string of accusations dating from last year that students were sexually abused by faculty for decades in the famed private school in Riverdale and that school administration allegedly failed to take action.
According to the criminal complaint, the plaintiff claims the late conductor Johannes Somary (1935-2011), who was in charge of the school's arts and music department, abused him about 450 times between 1973 to 1977.
The lawsuit was filed in New Jersey, which has different statute of limitations than New York. The plaintiff argues that New Jersey would allow the suit, because he did not learn until recently that Horace Mann was allegedly aware of accusations against Somary.
At the time the alleged abuse started, Somary was 38 and the plaintiff was around 14 years old. The plaintiff sang in Somary's glee club and says the teacher invited him to private dinners and tennis games.
Somary allegedly convinced the young plaintiff to engage in mutual masturbation, oral and anal sex, and sometimes give the teenager wine before some of the incidents. The plaintiff claims the encounters took place on school property, in Somary's country club in the Bronx, at the Englewood Boat Basin in New Jersey and other spots in the United States and Europe.
The plaintiff says his parents approved of his spending time with such a well-known musician, and he maintained a friendship with Somary for the rest of his life.
According to the complaint, the plaintiff was convinced by Somary that they were "soul mates" and only after Somary's death did he learn from a newspaper article that other Horace Mann students alleged they were abused by the teacher.
The plaintiff believes Horace Mann faculty knew about abuse allegations against Somary as early as 1970 but chose to ignore them, and accuses them of allowing his own abuse to take place.
In the complaint, the plaintiff claims that his sexual abuse resulted in years of drug abuse, failed attempts at rehab and two failed marriages.
He is suing past and present headmasters, several administrators and board of trustee members who served at Horace Mann from between 1970 to 2012, and is seeking damages for emotional distress and failing to protect students.
His attorney, Rosemarie Arnold, said that school officials had already been warned about Somary before the alleged abuse of her client began.
"Had they stopped right then and there and removed this predator from their school, my client wouldn't have been abused, and it would have spared my client the torment and torture that he's been enduring for his entire life."
Last year, the New York Times reported at least three former Horace Mann students — two who attended in the 1970s and a third who attended in the 1990s — claim they were sexually abused by Somary during their time at the school.
Another former Horace Mann teacher reportedly admitted last year to having had sex with at least three of his students. He is unlikely to be prosecuted, due to New York's statute of limitations.