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Horace Mann Abuse Victims Flocking To Lawyers, Going Public Over Scandal

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There is a demand for answers and changes in the wake of sex abuse allegations at a top New York private school.

Alumni who say they were abused at Horace Mann School are talking to lawyers about their options, CBS 2's Tony Aiello reported Wednesday.

"The people I've heard from were injured, seriously," attorney Michael Dowd said.

Dowd, who specializes in sex abuse claims, said he's been contacted by a dozen Horace Mann alumni after a New York Times expose was published alleging sex abuse at the prestigious prep school.

Deceased faculty members, including music teacher Johannes Somary, were accused of improper acts, starting in the 1970s into the 1990s.

Dowd said New York law makes suing difficult.

"People have to come forward, at present, by the age of 23, when most who have been abused aren't in any kind of position psychologically to come forward," Dowd said.

Some alleged victims are anonymously reporting abuse on web sites. Others are going public. In "The Daily Beast," Kate Aurthur wrote about a Horace Mann teacher groping her in a car in 1986.

Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson has set up a hotline for others with sex abuse claims to report them -- (718) 838-7382.

"Trying to get information from past, and if there is any present. No preconceptions that something is going on now, but we want to know," Johnson said.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the scandal is a wake-up call.

"Anybody who is running a private or parochial or religious school in this city, step back, go through your files. Ask the questions; review your policies," Quinn said.

In a letter to alumni, the Horace Mann headmaster said the school has good policies now.

"An employee in today's environment would be immediately removed for a range of behaviors far less severe than those represented in the New York Times article," the headmaster said.

The school said it's working on ways to help alumni who suffered abuse. Some lawmakers want to change New York law so victims have until age 28 to bring a sex abuse claim.

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