Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Private School Scandals and Public Relations

Last week in the New York Times Magazine,www.nytimes.com/2012/06/10/magazine/the-horace-mann-schools-secret-history-of-sexual-abuse.html?_r=1  an article appeared revealing a history of sexual abuse at the prestigious private preparatory school Horace Mann www.horacemann.org in New York City occurring 30 years ago that left lasting effects on many former Horace Mann Students. Incidents like these, and others are raising a lot of questions about how private school communities, and school communities in general, are communicating with their various constituents, and how best to respond to a public both internal and external that is use to, and expects open, transparent and inclusive interaction.
Private schools for the most part, are often thought of as being elite and insular and Horace Mann is no exception. Yet, despite a culture built on rigor and competition, Horace Mann is trying to convey a sense of compassion and openness. To help, they have engaged the efforts of their public relations firm, Kekst and Company to assist them as they navigate through this difficult communications obstacle course. While the head of Horace Mann was unavailable to the NewYork Times reporter for comment, the school did submit a statement expressing their concern and assuring their community that this type of behavior would not be tolerated today. The school also sent a letter to parents and students of the current Horace Mann community as well as a letter to alumni. Both of these letters are prominently displayed on the Horace Mann website and available to anyone. While these efforts are helpful, it is clear that more is needed. Judging by the New York Times blog, communities of people are gathering together online to discuss the matter and voice their views on a situation that has certainly touched many. In addition, the Bronx District Attorney has created a hotline for Horace Mann victims. Horace Mann should not wait too long to offer their own forums for discussion and opportunities for sharing as people will come together regardless of the school's involvement. Horace Mann would be wise to facilitate some of these gatherings and demonstrate an openness that they say more closely reflects the kind of school they are today. Horace Mann should take this opportunity to take a lead position in helping empowering young people to speak out and not be afraid.

No comments:

Post a Comment