Influential Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was fired Wednesday amid a sexual abuse scandal surrounding former coaching assistant Jerry Sandusky. The scandal has erupted into on-campus demonstrations in support of Paterno and protests calling for the resignation of school administrators this week.
Sandusky is charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period, according to a grand jury report. He allegedly met his victims through The Second Mile, a charity he founded to help needy children.
This horrifying story alone could damage Penn State’s reputation, but what’s more damaging is that school officials may have known something was wrong as early as 1998, when a woman reported to university police that Sandusky had inappropriately touched her 11-year-old child in a campus football facility, according to the New York Times.
Many at Penn State could lose their jobs for not doing more to investigate allegations of abuse. This should be a lesson to all that when such heinous allegations are brought up, simply doing the bare minimum or nothing at all will not cut it.
It will be some time before the true reasons for the school’s poor handling of the situation are revealed. Whether it was motivated by a desire to protect the football program’s reputation or simply a breakdown in the line of communications, there is no excuse.
In 2000, a janitor reported witnessing Sandusky have sex with a boy to his co-workers, but did not alert the authorities, according to the report, and in 2002, a graduate assistant entered an on-campus locker room at night and witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in the shower.
That student reported what he saw to Paterno, who then reported it to the Penn State athletic director. The director and another school official interviewed the graduate assistant, so apparently some investigation was attempted, but no one alerted the police, according to the Times.
Law enforcement officials cleared Paterno of any legal wrongdoing Monday, since he did report the allegations to his superiors, but questioned his moral response, according to the Times.
It is truly unfortunate to think that Sandusky could have been stopped years ago if witnesses or school officials had pursued the issue further, possibly saving victims. The janitor, the graduate assistant and even Paterno could have done more. No one should ever take allegations of such detestable crimes lightly.