“Total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims”: An independent report about the Penn State University sexual abuse scandal accuses top university officials of nothing less. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized,” says Louis J. Freeh, the former federal judge and director of the FBI who oversaw the report.
Superstar football coach Joe Paterno (whose passed away in January), former university president Graham Spanier and a number of other officials are all accused of deliberately covering up facts about Sandusky sexually abusing children in the Penn State football facilities. Last month, Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse and is expected to serve a life sentence.
The report clearly states that Penn State officials feared for the reputation of the university and, in particular, of its powerful college football program, to the point of treating the safety of children as of secondary concern:
“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity… [top university officials] repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the board of trustees, the Penn State community and the public at large.:
The investigation took seven months during which more than 400 interviews were conducted and more than 3.5 million documents reviewed.
Reports Makes Clear What Paterno and Spanier Knew
The Chronicle of Higher Education has published some parts of the report, with annotations. Page 15 clearly states that Spanier and the university’s board failed in their duties:
“By not promptly and fully advising the Board of Trustees about the 1998 and 2001 child sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky and the subsequent Grand Jury investigation of him, Spanier failed in his duties as President…The Board also failed in its duties to oversee the President and senior University officials in 1998 and 2001 by not inquiring about important University matters and by not creating an environment where senior University officials felt accountable.”
On May 3, 1998, the mother of an 11-year-old boy informed a Penn State psychologist and Penn State police that Sandusky had groped her son in a Penn State athletic facility. Penn State vice president Gary Schultz was informed, the Chronicle reports:
Confidential notes from Mr. Schultz indicate that he was aware of the gravity of the situation. “Behavior – at best inappropriate @ worst sexual improprieties,” one note says. Two days after the incident, additional notes from Mr. Schultz say that a second boy had told police a similar story: “Locker room. Wrestling. Kissed on head. Hugging from behind in shower.” The notes end with questions: “Is this the opening of pandora’s box? Other children?”
Even before 1998, staff members and coaches at Penn State routinely saw Sandusky showering with boys in a Penn State locker building, says page 40. Former coach Richard Anderson told investors that he “didn’t think the practice was improper.”
Notes written in 1999 and apparently in Paterno’s handwriting refer to Sandusky’s retirement from Penn State in 1999, says the report‘s page 57.
“If there were no 2nd Mile then I believe you belief [sic] that you probably could be the next Penn State FB Coach. But you wanted the best of two worlds and I probably should have sat down with you six or seven years ago and said look Jerry if you want to be the Head Coach at Penn State, give up your association with the 2nd Mile and concentrate on nothing but your family and Penn State.”
After an incident of Sandusky abusing a boy in the Penn State locker room in 2001, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Spanier did not speak to the 2nd Mile and the state Department of Welfare but decided to meet with Sandusky first, says page 75 of the report. In an email, Spanier said that this approach is “humane and a reasonable way to proceed.”
Paterno’s Letter Seeks to Undermine Freeh’s Investigation
The report will certainly have repercussions for Penn State’s legal liability to Sandusky’s victims, to the already-tarnished legacy of Paterno, to the world of college sports and to Penn State University itself.
On Tuesday, Paterno’s family issued a statement meant to undermine Freeh’s investigation. Paterno had been “eager to tell all he knew about the university’s dealings with Sandusky and had admitted to having failed to do more to stop Sandusky.” But the letter then asserts that Sandusky’s crimes and Paterno’s and the university’s failings were not a “football scandal”:
Regardless of anyone’s opinion of my actions or the actions of the handful of administration officials in this matter, the fact is nothing alleged is an indictment of football or evidence that the spectacular collections of accomplishments by dedicated student athletes should be in anyway tarnished.
This statement only further dims Paterno’s legacy and that of the Penn State football program. The abuse happened in the university’s football facilities. Sandusky gained access to so many children due to his position as a Penn State coach, via his 2nd Mile charity. Not only Penn State coaches but the university’s athletic director and top university officials including the president knew about the abuse of children on university grounds and failed to contact authorities. The money brought in by the football program under Paterno and, yes, Sandusky, has not only benefited athletics. It has endowed professorships and is in countless ways intertwined with Penn State’s academic community.
The Sandusky sexual abuse scandal is a football scandal that the university’s leaders sought to hide.
It is a Penn State scandal.
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