Posted on 12 Jul 2012 by Neilson
An independent investigation into Pennsylvania State University's handling of child-sex-abuse allegations has found that university administrators, including former President Graham Spanier and the late longtime football coach Joe Paterno, "repeatedly concealed critical facts" to avoid bad publicity in connection with reports that former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky could be a pedophile.
The 267-page report, issued Thursday by former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Louis Freeh at the request of trustees, found that Messrs. Spanier and Paterno, along with former Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz, "failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade."
"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest."
Mr. Spanier and his attorneys, along with representatives of Mr. Paterno, weren't immediately available to comment.
A spokeswoman for Messrs. Curley and Schultz and their lawyers said, "It is inappropriate to comment yet as we have not yet read the report."
Penn State's Board of Trustees said it was convening an internal team to review the findings.
"We want to ensure we are giving the report careful scrutiny and consideration before making any announcements or recommendations. We are convening an internal team comprising the Board of Trustees, University administration and our legal counsel to begin analyzing the report and digesting Judge Freeh's findings," the trustees said in a statement.
The trustees also said they would develop and implement a plan "once we have studied the report and have a better understanding of what it means and how we can implement findings to strengthen Penn State's role as a leading academic institution and ensure that what occurred will never be allowed to happen again."
The report says the university violated the federal Clery Act, a law that requires universities to collect information about alleged crimes and to make timely warnings of certain kinds of alleged crimes that pose an ongoing threat to the community. The university had little awareness of these requirements for years after the law was passed in 1990, the report says.
Nearly two decades later, university officials became aware that Penn State was deficient in meeting all the requirements of the Clery Act and took some efforts to improve, according to the report. Still, the report says, awareness and interest in Clery Act compliance remained lacking throughout the university. Since making the report with campus crime statistics available electronically in 2007, "the University Police Department has received only one completed form through 2011."
The report says the four school officials knew about a 1998 investigation into Mr. Sandusky that didn't result in criminal charges at the time. It said the men didn't alert the trustees and none took further action. According to the report, Mr. Paterno said, "I didn't know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was. So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn't work out that way."
Mr. Spanier told the Special Investigative Counsel that he was never told by anyone that the February 2001 incident in the shower involved the sexual abuse of a child but only "horsing around." He further stated that he never asked what horsing around by Sandusky entailed.
"Taking into account the available witness statements and evidence, it is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University—Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley—repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large."
Although concern to treat the child abuser humanely was expressly stated, no such sentiments were ever expressed by them for Sandusky's victims.
The report also says Penn State allowed Mr. Sandusky to attract potential victims by giving him continued access to the university and its football program.
"Indeed, that continued access provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims. Some coaches, administrators and football program staff members ignored the red flags of Sandusky's behaviors and no one warned the public about him."
The report was widely expected to open the next chapter in the scandal that erupted last fall when Mr. Sandusky was charged with abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period, including on Penn State's campus. In June, Mr. Sandusky, 68 years old, was convicted by a jury in Centre County Court on 45 counts related to child sexual abuse. Mr. Sandusky, who faces a maximum sentence of 442 years in prison, maintains his innocence, and his lawyers plan to file an appeal.