Independent investigation blames Paterno & Penn State leaders for concealing Sandusky’s child sex abuse

Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno. SOURCE: PSU.edu

An independent investigation led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh concluded that Penn State University leaders knowingly covered up Jerry Sandusky’s repeated sexual abuse of young boys prior to and after his retirement as defense coordinator of the school’s venerable football team. 

The investigation concluded three weeks after Sandusky was found guilty of molesting and raping underaged boys between 1998 and 2002; some of those assaults took place in Penn State’s football facilities, where Sandusky was granted unfettered access even after his retirement in 1999.

Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts, including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, and unlawful contact with minors. His sentencing is pending.

The report, commissioned by Penn State’s Board of Trustees, singled out the university’s legendary football coach Joe Paterno, former President Graham Spanier, Athletic Director Timothy Curley, and Senior Vice President of Finance and Business Gary Schultz for concealing Sandusky’s wrongdoings, which “empowered” Sandusky to continue preying on young children.

“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,” said Freeh. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”

Curley and Schultz were charged by the Pennsylvania Attorney General for perjury and failure to report allegations of child abuse to law enforcement. Their cases are still pending.

Spanier was forced to resign last November after he expressed “unconditional support” for Schultz and Curley. Paterno passed away in January.

Although the allegations against Sandusky involved multiple victims, there was one notable example that illustrated how poorly Penn State officials handled the sexual abuse matter.

In February 2001, then-graduate assistant Michael McQueary witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in the Lasch Building shower and reported the incident to Paterno.

Paterno told McQueary, “You did what you had to do. It’s my job now to figure out what we want to do.”

Paterno reported the allegations to Curley and Schultz. Curley and Schultz proposed offering Sandusky “professional help” without notifying authorities, to which Spanier responded, “The approach you outlined is humane and a reasonable way to proceed.”

However, Spanier did raise concerns about not reporting the allegations to law enforcement and the state’s Department of Public Welfare.

“The only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it,” wrote Spanier. “But that can be assessed down the road.”

Six months later – in August 2001- Sandusky sexually assaulted another child in the Lasch Building shower.

The report concluded that the response by Penn State officials “exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims” even though they knew about a 1998 criminal investigation involving Sandusky’s alleged sexual misconduct with a child in the Lasch Building shower.

While Spanier, Schultz, Curley, and Paterno tried to justify their actions as “the best way to handle vague but troubling allegations”, Freeh remarked that they “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities” to avoid “bad publicity.”

Freeh’s report also contains 120 recommendations to help Penn State improve its oversight and protection of children who use the school’s facilities or participate in its programs.

“One of the most challenging tasks confronting the Penn State community is transforming the culture that permitted Sandusky’s behavior,” Freeh noted.

Penn State issued this statement in response to Freeh’s report: “The Board of Trustees, as the group that has paramount accountability for overseeing and ensuring the proper functioning and governance of the University, accepts full responsibility for the failures that occurred. The Board, in cooperation with the Administration, will take every action to ensure that events like these never happen again in our university community.”

 

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