The Ivy Coach Daily

June 21, 2023

Horace Mann School Admissions Scandal

Horace Mann School is featured behind a nearby NYC street under a blue sky.
Horace Mann School’s admissions practices are the focus of a New York State Supreme Court lawsuit (photo credit: Anthony22).

Horace Mann School, the elite New York City private preparatory school that traces its roots to the nineteenth century and sends many of its students annually to the Ivy League, is in some hot water. But it’s not like Horace Mann School hasn’t swum in hot water before. An exposé published in 2012 by Amos Kamil in The New York Times Magazine highlighted widespread sexual abuse at the school from the late 1960s through the early 1990s.

Horace Mann Accused of Taking Donation in Exchange for Preferential Treatment in Admissions

But what’s Horace Mann School in trouble for today? Well, a former employee of a Horace Mann parent, Daniel Hawyard, filed a lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court in 2020 that was just unsealed in May 2023, alleging that his former employer, Qi Tom Chen, stuck a deal in 2018 with the school’s headmaster at a meeting set up by a private college counselor. As Hawyard alleges, Chen’s children received preferential treatment in the Horace Mann admissions process in exchange for a mere million-dollar donation. 

Ivy Coach’s readers are likely slack-jawed — only a million-dollar donation? We kid, we kid. Or do we? Anyway, it seems the former employee is also accusing his old boss of cheating on his taxes.

As Priscilla DeGregory and Natalie O’Neill write for The New York Post in a salacious piece on the Horace Mann admissions scandal, “Hawyard also accuses Chen of cheating on his taxes for years — claiming that the admissions placement payments should have been reported to the IRS as taxable ’unrelated business income,’ according to the lawsuit, which was filed in 2020 and unsealed in May.”

The Case Against Horace Mann Seems Weak to Us

But while we sympathize with Hawyard’s claims, the whole case strikes us as a disgruntled former employee suing his old boss as retribution for something that wasn’t to their liking in the workplace. After all, merely donating money to a school and hoping it leads to preferential treatment for one’s children isn’t unlawful.

As DeGregory and O’Neill report, “Eric Rosen, a former federal prosecutor who worked on the ’Varsity Blues’ college admission scandal cases, said the allegations against Chen and Horace Mann likely hinge on how explicit the purported deal was between Chen and the school, Insider reported. Simply hinting at or hoping that a donation will result in a favor isn’t illegal, he said.”

We agree with the former federal prosecutor. It’s not as though Chen was bribing an athletic coach — unbeknownst to the school, like in the Varsity Blues scandal. These not-so-explicit deals happen regularly at fancy prep schools.

The Grey Area of Tax-Deductible Donations to Schools

And as to Hawyard’s claim that Chen cheated on his taxes by not reporting his donation to Horace Mann as unrelated business income, it’s an argument we at Ivy Coach have been making for years. Parents should not receive tax credits for donating to schools when they receive preferential treatment for their children in the admissions process in exchange for said donations. 

As Ivy Coach has argued for years, “26 U.S. Code § 170 reads as follows: ’There shall be allowed as a deduction any charitable contribution (as defined in subsection (c)) payment of which is made within the taxable year. A charitable contribution shall be allowable as a deduction only if verified under regulations prescribed by the Secretary.” One part of this code also states, “(C) no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.’

Yet this is an argument we’ve been making from atop Ivy Coach’s soapbox in elite college admissions to inspire change and eliminate these quid-pro-quo backroom deals in admissions. It’s not an argument that necessarily holds legal muster. Frankly, we’re surprised Hawyard’s attorney would file such a claim as it seems, for lack of better words, legally unsavvy. But the motivation for the claim is clear: if Hawyard proves Chen cheated on his taxes, he stands to collect a share of the back taxes.

Stay Tuned for Updates on the Horace Mann Case

We’ll be sure to keep our readers posted on all the legal maneuverings surrounding this juicy case that Ivy Coach’s famously accurate crystal ball predicts will soon collapse on the plaintiff. That’s all for now. XOXO, Gossip Girl. Just kidding! It’s us, Ivy Coach!

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