I will preface the following by acknowledging that America has a legal presumption of innocence until guilt is proven. What follows here all hinges on whether or not the allegations against former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky are true.
The grand jury report on the Sandusky case can be found here. It is 23 pages of lurid and disturbing detail, chronicling years of abuse. Patterns that were not only witnessed multiple times by multiple people, but also, in several instances, investigated by authorities.
And yet not until 2011 did the full scope of the case come to light.
In that time, numerous people were aware of what Sandusky was doing, either through firsthand accounts or through allegations and reports made by others.
The mainstream media has covered this story extensively over the past week, and the idea that the system failed is now well established. But this isn’t merely a case of improprieties being swept under the rug. It isn’t merely a case of shoddy police work, or victims too embarrassed to come forward.
Read the report. Read the testimony of the people involved.
Read about a 1998 investigation that involved police detectives and the mother of one of the victims. Read Sandusky’s own words as he practically admitted the depth of misconduct. Read the detective’s warning to Sandusky that he should stop showering with young boys.
Read about the janitor who witnessed an assault in 2000. Read about a Penn State graduate assistant, since identified as Mike McQueary, reporting an eyewitness account of child rape.
Critical evidence has existed for years, and nothing was done.
Jerry Sandusky is married. Jerry Sandusky has been present at Penn State University facilities as recently as last week. In 2002, he was banned from having any contact with youth in State College, but proceeded to do so on at least one satellite campus.
What in the hell happened here?
What would you do if you were a 28 year old man who in the course of your job saw someone raping a child? Would you run away from the scene, embarrassed? Would you call your father for advice, neglecting to make any kind of report until the following day? Would you avoid calling the police?
Nevermind mandatory reporting laws, though those were repeatedly and egregiously broken by many different people. What we’re talking about is common human decency.
There is no honor in what McQueary did. Any credit he should get for “blowing the whistle” is vastly outweighed by the pathetic nature of his response. The same is true of Joe Paterno, who merely passed McQueary’s report along to his superiors.
Those superiors didn’t meet with McQueary until a week and a half had elapsed, and when they did Paterno, who was McQueary’s boss and the first PSU employee to have heard McQueary’s report, wasn’t even present.
McQueary wasn’t another young boy. He was a 28 year old man witnessing, by his own account, the rape of a child. And the steps he took were to flee the scene, call his own father, and tell his boss.
No police. No child welfare. Nothing.
In what world is that acceptable?
In what world is it acceptable for Paterno to have pawned this atrocity off on his own superior, thereby apparently content to wash his hands of the matter?
Tim Curley, Paterno’s immediate supervisor and former Penn State Athletic Director has been charged with perjury for making materially false statements under oath. Gary Schultz, former Senior Vice President for Finance and Business has been similarly charged. But their crimes of omission go well beyond perjury.
They, like McQueary and Paterno, had direct knowledge of allegations that warranted a full and serious investigation. Yet just as those involved in 1998, just as those involved in 2000, they merely covered up the whole thing.
Read the grand jury report. Assuming it is true– and believing otherwise is awfully difficult– it leaves little room for any sympathy. Adopting a wait and see attitude on the culpability of anyone in the know goes out the window once the details unfold.
These were grown men who were told of or saw children being molested and did virtually nothing to stop it.
And what of Sandusky’s wife? Multiple incidents of assault are said to have occurred in the basement of the Sandusky home. Was this a case of not knowing? Or not wanting to know?
Regardless, the revelations of these pervasive crimes have shaken Penn State to its very core, and no one directly involved should be permitted to survive the fallout. University President Graham Spanier and Paterno must step down immediately, as should McQueary. How they manage to live with themselves is a matter that cannot be adjudicated, but their future with a public institution is a different matter.
Every remaining employee, indeed every employee of state universities everywhere, should get a refresher course on what it means to be a mandatory reporter. And moreover, what it means to have a conscience.
As a human, I am repulsed. As a parent, I am horrified. “They should have done more” doesn’t even come close to covering it.