DN Editorial: Abuse of power at Penn State

Posted: November 09, 2011

ONCE AGAIN, we have a powerful and rich institution so concerned with protecting itself that it champions a conspiracy of silence over sexual crimes allegedly committed against children by one of its own.

Once again, we have countless young lives that could have been spared if someone in authority - anyone - had done the right thing on their behalf and reported allegations to police.

Instead we have a sickeningly deja vu grand-jury presentment - with eerie echoes to a February report involving the Philadelphia Archdiocese - that details the horrors not only allegedly visited upon young victims by former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky but of institutional denial that allowed him to keep ruining lives . . . mostly of boys 7, 8 and 10 years old, culled from a charity organization that he founded.

The grand-jury presentment details an investigation into Sandusky as early as 1998 that ended in a police report. This investigation resulted not in charges, but in Sandusky's being advised "against taking showers with a child again."

In 2000, according to the presentment, a janitor stumbled upon Sandusky engaged in a sex act with a young boy. The janitor reported it to his supervisor; it never went anywhere else.

In 2002, a graduate assistant came into a locker room and allegedly witnessed Sandusky raping a 10-year-old boy. He reported it to Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, who kicked it upstairs, to his boss, Athletic Director Tim Curley. Curley, with VP Gary Schultz, told University President Graham Spanier.

The grand jury reported that Curley and Schultz had said that the graduate assistant referred only to "Sandusky in the shower with a younger child and that they were horsing around."

Apparently, an adult horsing around in a shower with a child, while disturbing, doesn't mandate that law enforcement be informed. Again, no police report was filed.

Curley and Schultz have been charged with perjury and failure to report to authorities.

If proved in court, Sandusky's behavior is not only reprehensible but a horrific abuse of power and authority.

But that abuse of power was also practiced by the university officials - from a janitorial supervisor to highly placed executives - who refused to act on these reports. Most actions involved kicking these disturbing reports up the chain of command.

And now, everyone on that chain who was ever informed of Sandusky's behavior detailed by the grand jury should go.

What single element in any of these allegations could possibly be interpreted as OK?

We hate to state the obvious, but here it is, Penn State: It is never, ever OK for an adult to have sex with a child. And to hear even a single allegation involving this behavior, and do nothing?

Almost worse.

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