Late last month, former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts related to child-sex abuse following the scandal that broke last November. While the decision marked the beginning of the healing process for Sandusky’s victims and all those involved, suffice to say Penn State is nowhere close to being out of the woods yet.
Friday night, a CNN report detailed new emails exchanged among PSU administrators in 2001 suggesting there was a planned cover-up for Sandusky beginning 16 days after former Nittany Lions assistant coach Mike McQueary allegedly saw Sandusky in the showers of an on-campus facility with a young boy.
Though former PSU coach Joe Paterno did not send/receive any emails in the thread, athletic director Tim Curley allegedly wrote: “After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps.” Although never mentioned by name, it’s believed Curley was talking about Sandusky.
There were other similar emails, but the bottom line is it appears that Paterno, Curley, former VP Gary Schultz and president Graham Spanier all knew more about the Sandusky allegations than they initially led on.
But that’s been suspected for some time. On the day leading up to the start of Sandusky trial, NBC News reported school admins exchanged emails in 2001 claiming it would be “humane” for Sandusky not to involve authorities. A day later, a Pittsburgh-based news outlet reported Schultz had a “secret file” of allegations against Sandusky. In mid-June, a PSU trustee told the Associated Press that he suspected a cover-up by PSU officials.
Now, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports “Top Pennsylvania State University officials held a three-hour meeting to discuss Jerry Sandusky in 2001 over concerns about the former coach’s behavior with a boy in the football showers.
“A law-firm billing record from that conversation describes a ‘report of suspected child abuse,’ according to a person with knowledge of an independent investigation into the matter,” the report says.
Given the amount of information that continues to surface, it’s becoming clearer that PSU admins knew something, yet failed to report anything to child-welfare services. That’s a violation of Pennsylvania state law. Curley and Schultz are already facing perjury charges.
However, the CNN report from Friday claims Schultz initially had a plan to notify the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare about concerns over the Sandusky situation. Obviously, though, those plans were never executed as PSU admins instead reportedly planned to ask Sandusky to seek counseling — something they knew was the wrong approach.
“The only downside for us is if the message [to Sandusky] isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it,” Spanier reportedly said in an email.
In response to the emails, the Paterno family released a statement saying “From the beginning, Joe Paterno warned against a rush to judgment in this case. Coach Paterno testified truthfully, to the best of his recollection, in the one brief appearance he made before the grand jury.”
The CNN emails suggest otherwise, but we’ll never know what was going through Paterno’s mind, just as the thought process for Curley, Schultz and Spanier remains a mystery today.
Still, there’s one way and one way only to correctly handle an accusation of sexual abuse — this isn’t an open-ended question — and no one at Penn State handled it the right way.
In fact, you could make a strong case they blatantly handled it the wrong way. There should be no sympathy or forgiveness for that.