Tag Archives: Penn State University

How Could So Many Have Dropped the Ball When it Came to Jerry Sandusky?

The more I have read about former Penn State football coach, Jerry Sandusky, and so many others who were peripherally aware of his horrific misconduct and did nothing to stop it, the angrier I get. And I can’t imagine how the parents of the boys who were victimized and the victims themselves feel.

 

Jerry Sandusky

First, my disgust for Sandusky’s behavior and his cunningness is hard to express. This man chose his victims very carefully; who better than at-risk young boys. And what a sick yet sly man this was who knew that if he took these young boys under his wing and wormed his way into their trust by working with them at his Second Mile program, a charity which he founded for boys like this, he could place himself in a position to take advantage of their trust.

One of the first examples of turning a blind eye? In May of 1998, a mother of one of these boys reported to university police that the coach had showered with her son. Two campus police detectives listened in while this mother approached Sandusky regarding the bear hug he had given her son while both were naked in the showers. They listened in as Sandusky refused to promise not to shower with her son again, and when asked if his “private parts” had touched her son’s body, they heard him say, “I don’t think so. Maybe.”

Six days later, they listened in to another conversation between the two. When the boy’s mother told Sandusky to stay away from her son, Sandusky said, “I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead.”

Now, listen for the ball dropping…

Sandusky met with the lead police detective and investigator with the child welfare department two weeks later, where he admitted to showering with the boy. He told them he was sorry, and the detective told him “not to shower with any child again and Sandusky said he would not.” According to the report, District Attorney Ray Gricar decided not to press criminal charges, and the case was dropped.

Did you hear it? Bounce…bounce…bounce…

firm image

But wait; the report indicates that at least one other person was aware of this investigation: university counsel Wendell Courtney. But Courtney was also the attorney for Sandusky’s Second Mile charity.

Bounce…bounce…bounce…

At the end of 1999, Sandusky left his coaching position at Penn State, but his retirement package granted him an office in the team’s practice facility and unlimited access to the football facilities, which included the locker rooms, where he used his access to prey on the boys he was “helping.”

It was here, on March 1, 2002, that Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant at the time but now a wide receiver coach for Penn State, went to investigate some “rhythmic slapping sounds” coming from the showers. To his shock, McQueary saw Sandusky having anal sex in the locker room shower with a boy who appeared to be about 10 years old. A sad detail here is that the boy apparently saw McQueary, too. 

A “distraught” McQueary called his father telling him what he had witnessed, and the next day they went together to tell Coach Paterno what McQueary had seen. (Now, follow the telling of this sexual assault and take note of how many people along the way were informed of the terrible event.)

The next day (not that very day) Paterno called Tim Curley, Penn State’s athletic director and told him that McQueary had seen Sandusky “fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.” My first reaction to this grand jury testimony is: was that how McQueary described anal sex to Paterno, or is that the watered-down version Paterno passed along? I don’t know, but clearly this is an extremely white-washed version of what really happened in that shower.

Penn State University President Graham Spanier was also informed of “a report of an incident involving Sandusky and a child in the showers on campus.” And the senior vice president for finance and business, who also oversaw the University Police, Gary Schultz, was also told.

Get ready for a lot of dropped balls…

Gary Schultz

Schultz never reported the incident to campus police. Bounce…bounce…bounce…

Neither did Coach Paterno. Bounce…bounce…bounce…

 

Graham Spanier and Joe PaternoAnd neither did the president of the university. Bounce…bounce…bounce…

Tim Curly

Curley met with McQueary a couple of weeks after the alleged assault and told him “that Sandusky had been directed not to use Penn State’s athletic facilities with young people and the ‘information’ had been given to the director of The Second Mile.”

As far as Curley was concerned, it was over. Bounce…bounce…bounce…

And McQueary, as “distraught” as he had been, did not inform the police about what he had witnessed when the university let him down. That young boy who saw McQueary witness his assault was probably hoping for a savior.  Bounce… bounce… bounce…

Things continued much the same until the spring of 2008, when the mother of one of the most recently alleged victims contacted her son’s high school to report her suspicions regarding Sandusky.

And here is the first refreshing news in this whole twisted tale: the head high school coach immediately notified the authorities, and an investigation was finally launched by Pennsylvania’s attorney general in early 2009, an investigation which took more than two years to finally result in charges against Sandusky.

Finally, a high school coach did what no one else was willing to do; risk going up against a legendary coach to protect a child. Finally, the ball was not dropped. And perhaps, if police had been notified along the way, this latest young man would never have been a victim of Sandusky’s abuse.

I wonder how those who dropped the ball over the years when it came to Jerry Sandusky, and there may be many more that we aren’t even aware of, can sleep at night. How can they live with the knowledge that their silence opened the door for other young boys to be victimized by a monster? Do they lay awake at night and wish that they could turn back the hands of time and choose differently?

And was the choice so very difficult? A legendary coach and a university’s reputation over protecting children from a monster.

Is there any excuse to let that ball drop?

(Any quotes in this blog are part of the grand jury report.)

Penn State’s Child Sex Abuse Case Has a Lesson to Teach All Colleges and Universities

Penn State’s horrendous child abuse scandal has shocked the nation in general and college and university officials specifically, who want to avoid a similar scandal in their own schools. Clearly there are important lessons to be learned from what happened at Penn State.

PHOTO: Former Penn State football defensive coordinator Gerald "Jerry" Sandusky

A grand jury has charged former Penn State Coach Jerry Sandusky with sex abuse or sexual assault of eight young boys. At least one of these eight boys was only 10 when the alleged abuse started; abuse that continued for 15 years. So much about this situation and the conduct of many senior officials at the university who were aware of the possible misconduct either directly or indirectly is terribly disturbing.

For example, a graduate assistant reported an assault which he had witnessed in the locker room shower involving Sandusky to Coach Paterno. Yet, Paterno didn’t report the incident to the police; instead he told the athletic director, who told a senior official responsible for the campus police. The whole incident was eventually written off by the athletic director and the senior official who reported to the president of Penn State, Graham Spanier, that the whole thing was just a case of horseplay.

This is just one terrible example of people who held positions of authority and respect at the university making decisions which were more about protecting Sandusky’s reputation as a coach who helped to give Penn State the reputation of “Linebacker U,” than it was about protecting innocent children.

Chairman of the Sports Studies Department at Guilford College, in Greensboro, N.C., Robert Malekoff, said, “It just appears with the aura of the program, the coach took precedence over underage children here.”

Penn State coach Joe Paterno and his wife Sue on the front porch of their house, address students

With the firing of Joe Paterno and several Penn State officials, including its president, staffs at college universities throughout the United States are being reminded by their administrators how important it is to report any sex crimes to the police, especially those that involve children. These college presidents feel that the tragedy at Penn State should serve as a reminder to all institutions to go beyond the letter of the law when it comes to keeping children safe.

It would seem that this would be a lesson that universities would not need to be taught, but Penn State has certainly opened the eyes of many across the country as to what can happen when officials forget to protect children in their haste to protect the reputation of individuals or institutions.

Others say that the main lesson to be learned from this debacle is the need to create an atmosphere on college campuses in which people are not afraid to report crimes, even when those crimes are committed by famous faculty members.

Arizona State University President Michael Crow said that when he heard the news about Sandusky, he was compelled to remind all senior staff at his university of their duty to report all crimes to the police.

 Crow said, “We reiterated our view that there is not going to be any culture of protectiveness in our institutions. Everyone is subject to the same rules, everyone.”

Arizona State University is not the only one taking a more serious look at how situations like this one should be handled at their school. Ken Ruscio, president of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, said, “I have already set up a discussion with our senior administrators to talk about when we are confronted with a situation. We will want to look at the legal ramifications and reputation risk. But in the end it comes down to what to do when we are faced with an ethical question.”

Clearly at Penn State both students and faculty were afraid to become whistleblowers, and sadly, even when some were brave enough to try, their accusations were ignored. The most powerful lesson to be learned here is that students, faculty, coaches, and administrators need to speak up when crimes occur on campus, and that means fostering an environment in which it is safe to report crimes without worrying about repercussions, or that reports will be dismissed.

Dennis Berkey, the president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Massachusetts, said, “We need to provide the leadership, so people are not afraid to present very unpleasant concerns or allegations to us. We need to be committed to get to the bottom of them [the allegations] even if it may hurt our constituencies or even our own tenure at the institutions.”

I would like to add that protecting reputations at the cost of protecting children is not just a problem on big college campuses. Just read my blog from yesterday if you need proof. It sure sounds like St. Anthony Catholic School in Miami did their own cover-up of sexual abuse to protect the “good name” of their school, and to keep tuition money coming in.

If the Penn State travesty could change the way schools treat sexual abuse, that might be the good that could come from this horrific scandal.