Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, and Happy Valley's unraised hands
There's something truly remarkable, in the worst possible sense, going on in State College, Pa. The news that former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky had been charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse, and the further revelation that two university administrators are being implicated in an alleged cover-up and charged with perjury, is repulsive. Every major figure involved in this case, from the time of the alleged incidents to the ill-considered weekend statements of criminally belated sorrow and self-absolution, seems inexplicably determined to worsen an already heinous situation. And what's even more sickening is this: If Tim Curley, the Penn State AD, and Gary Schultz, a university vice president tasked with overseeing the school's police department, and yes, coach Joe Paterno have had even the smallest measure of what kind of man Sandusky is, then their priorities are in some unimaginable place.
The full grand jury report is available online, but a bare few facts tell a damning story: Paterno, Curley and Schultz were informed in 2002 that a football graduate assistant had seen Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in the Nittany Lions’ locker room, by the GA himself. This apparently raised enough concern to enact a "please, don't bring your victims onto school property" policy, according to the attorney general's summation of the grand jury report. Attorney General Linda Kelly said that rather than reporting the matter to law enforcement, Curley and Schultz agreed that Sandusky be barred from bringing any Second Mile children into the football building.
And that's all. The only reason we're even aware of the story today is because Sandusky allegedly abused another boy while serving as a volunteer assistant at a high school and that school reported the incident to the police:
The grand jury noted that Sandusky was banned from the school district attended by the victim in 2009, after the boy's mother reported allegations of sexual assault to the school. That matter was promptly reported to authorities, as required by Pennsylvania law -- a report that marked the start of an extensive investigation by Pennsylvania State Police and the Attorney General's Office.
The quick action by high school staff members in Clinton County in response to reports of a possible sexual assault by Sandusky is in marked contrast to the reaction of top officials at Penn State, who had actually received a firsthand report of a sexual attack by Sandusky seven years earlier.
Look how this one school responded, and look how Penn State lumbered. Paterno, Curley and Schultz got the problem off their property and went about their business -- and Sandusky went about his. Not one university employee, including the two listed eyewitnesses to incidents of abuse, ever contacted the police. We're left to behold the wreckage of eight young lives. And every tidbit that's emerged since has only made Penn State more culpable.
Curley and Schultz have taken administrative leave and re-retired, respectively, and university president Graham Spanier has given them his unconditional support while distancing the school from Sandusky, saying, "I have complete confidence in how they have handled the allegations about a former University employee." Those are his words: Unconditional support for men who knew, and chose not to act. One wonders if he'll carefully describe these two as "former employees" if a trial goes against them.
Paterno, meanwhile, is being given a pass by the attorney general for his actions. This is the semantic equivalent of skating on a technicality. He reported the relayed incident to his superiors. But don't let it escape notice that he, too, could have called the police at any time, and somehow found the notion daunting, inappropriate, or not worth his time. We may never know. Paterno's statement is perhaps the most upsetting of all.
If true, the nature and amount of charges made are very shocking to me and all Penn Staters. While I did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention, like anyone else involved I can't help but be deeply saddened these matters are alleged to have occurred.
Paterno's strict definition of "supposed to" aside, he cannot be shocked. He cannot be shocked, because he knew. Paterno goes on to say that the specifics of the shower incident were not relayed to him at the time, but what he did hear, and what was subsequently relayed to Curley and Schultz, was enough to bar Sandusky from bringing boys to campus. This story has unleashed a nationwide flurry of finger-pointing and hand-wringing. For the moment, we need to set most of that aside. The Nittany Lions' 8-1 record and No. 12 BCS ranking are immaterial. The victimized children are the only people who matter, and here's where the remarkable part comes in: The people who've known about it the longest are among those who seem to care the least.