I have a cover story in New York Magazine this week on the Horace Mann School. The piece goes inside Horace Mann as a series of scandals unfold. When the children of rich and powerful parents created Facebook pages attacking teachers, and the teachers logged into Facebook and discovered the offensive material, Horace Mann confronted issues of privacy, appropriate speech and the influence of wealth on campus. In dealing with the crisis, Horace Mann administrators faced a choice: Discipline the students, or brush the matter aside as some members of the board of trustees wanted. From the piece:
Then, after lunch, McGuire and Sheehy were walking in front of Tillinghast Hall when a woman wearing alligator sunglasses stormed up to them. It was the trustee whose daughter had formed the anti-McGuire club.
“You logged into Facebook under a false name,” the woman said, glaring at McGuire.
“I had a right to defend myself against defamation,” McGuire responded.
“Students are just blowing off steam,” the trustee said. “They’re very stressed; it’s not unusual for them to say racist and sexist things … The site is private.”
“No,” McGuire insisted, “it’s got 9 million users.”
“What you did was like breaking into my daughter’s room and reading her diary … ”
“No,” McGuire said, the emotion rising in her voice, “what your daughter did was the equivalent of posting something in Times Square.”
McGuire could not control herself any longer. “What your daughter did was actionable, and I’m not talking about this anymore,” she said before walking off.
With private education increasingly dependent on donations from wealthy parents, many of whom sit on schools’ board of trustees, some are wondering if the power dynamics on campus have been distorted by the influence of money and power and the furious admissions race to get into top-flight colleges. And, with new technology and the Internet amplifying these pressures, Horace Mann is being tested like never before.
Read the full piece HERE