Hard to understand how school leaders could ignore clear evidence of child abuse

Don’t all school employees know they ought to report child abuse?

It is horrifying to read a newly released report charging that officials at Penn State closed their eyes to clear and disturbing evidence that Jerry Sandusky was abusing children within the campus confines and using his longtime affiliation with the vaunted Penn State football program as a lure.

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” said former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who was hired by Penn State trustees to look the scandal and produce the report. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”

The scathing new details about the failure of Penn State leadership to report suspicions of child abuse may represent a violation of the federal Clery Act, which mandates that all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs keep and disclose information about crime on and near campus.

The law honors the memory of Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University freshman raped and murdered in her dorm in 1986. Her parents learned later that students were unaware of 38 violent crimes on the campus in the three years prior to their 19-year-old daughter’s murder. They joined other campus crime victims and pushed Congress to pass a law that requires students to be alerted to crime on and around campus. The law mandates that schools make the campus aware of crimes that pose threats to students and employees.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

34 comments Add your comment

Aquagirl

July 12th, 2012
11:52 am

How could they ignore abuse? One word Maureen…football.

Duh.

Maureen Downey

July 12th, 2012
11:57 am

@Aqua, Still doesn’t make sense. Even with self-interest as their guiding goal, wouldn’t these Penn State leaders recognize that the bad press from reporting the guy would be a trickle compared to the torrent of bad press from shielding him? These colleges employ lots of PR types. And lawyers. None of them cautioned that failure to act could explode into a scandal that would not only tarnish Penn State but end their careers and lead to possible jail time?
Maureen

Shar

July 12th, 2012
12:33 pm

Aquagirl, I’d have to disagree. The violence of football and the disregard, or even the glorification, of bodily abuse (particularly to young males) no doubt desensitizes those who benefit from it to the physical price paid by the person abused.

But the precise same thing happened in the Catholic Church. It’s all about power, and the well-being of a few vulnerable kids simply doesn’t even get considered in the equation.

Football – and the Church – is all about money. The righteousness of the institution. The power and fame and wisdom and authority of those above you. Unquestioning obedience to their commands. And the protection of the organization from ‘outsiders’ by covering up and denying anything that could be construed as a flaw, on the basis that such outsiders wouldn’t understand and have no right to judge. And besides, if you allow criticism, the power, money, fame. authority and glory are jeopardized and you are likely to find yourself to cast out and consigned to being and ‘outsider’ yourself.

No screams and desperate pleas of either broken players or raped little boys would ever be enough to convince those “insider” grown men to break their blind alleigance, their code of silence or even to question their own motives.

Aquagirl

July 12th, 2012
12:38 pm

Maureen, you assume they factored getting caught into the equation. It’s Jockville. Rules are regularly suspended and ignored for the inhabitants. It’s not surprising they thought child abuse laws were just one more obstacle to overcome.

Shar

July 12th, 2012
12:40 pm

And Ms. Downey, such egotists NEVER believe they will be caught. The ‘what-ifs’ are brushed aside, as they so clearly were at Penn State, the Church, or by stupidly suicidal politicians like Spitzer or Vitter, since these guys are encased in the blistering arrogance of believing themselves to be above criticism and the staggering idiocy of their conviction that ‘no one important’ will talk.

As the Pennsylvania AG said, those little boys didn’t think that anyone would believe whatever they said. Clearly the child molesters and enablers at PSU didn’t think they were important enough to either protect or be believed.

Aquagirl

July 12th, 2012
12:57 pm

I think women in general underestimate the emotional investment of men in sports. Comparisons to the Catholic church scandals are quite apt.

The scary part is plenty of men are far more devoted to their teams than they are to any church.

catlady

July 12th, 2012
1:19 pm

I agree with the others. They thought it unlikely to ever surface, or they were too worried about being “unsure.” Teachers are told, if you have ANY suspicion, any subtle “uh-oh”, you HAVE to report. What happens next we never know. I am unsure how much gets through the next level and goes to DFACS, so I report to several different people at the next level. And even then we have to hope DFACS checks it out. We never know, unless a child is removed from school, if DFACS EVER intervened. I think this should be changed.

Shel

July 12th, 2012
2:10 pm

There is no doubt that these boys were victimized twice. First by Sandusky and then by the men who enabled him to hurt them. It’s disturbing to think that these men who had chosen to lead so many young people and were responsible for their well being, could choose to treat these victims as disposable. Maureen, it’s not hard for me to understand. It is impossible for me to understand. They have committed an unforgivable crime in my eyes. I don’t need to know why they did it. There is no excuse or reasoning that could gain even the smallest amount of understanding from me. Maybe some serious jail time for them will send the right message to future coaches and administrators.

Tonya C.

July 12th, 2012
2:26 pm

The fact is they were willing to roll the dice. They thought if they paid the victims enough money, or kept Sandusky ‘in line’ it would either stop or go away. Football is God it seems, and this Penn State situation proves it is not just in the south.

I mean, the e-mail where it was going to be reported to CPS, the the decision retracted shows they KNEW the right thing to do, but felt it was against THEIR best interest (and that of their football program) to do it.

bu2

July 12th, 2012
2:27 pm

Maureen;
You have to understand that these people (except maybe the university president) had known and worked with Sandusky for many years. He coached at Penn St. for 30 years. The VP and AD were probably coached by him as both were former football players.

It appears there was some sweep it under the rug to protect the university. But there was also most likely the factor that they didn’t want to believe it of someone they knew well. And they forgot the victims. Imagine if it were your friend and colleague at work who you knew for 30 years who was suddenly accused of being a pedophile.

Its a prime argument for not allowing businesses or educational institutions to get too inbred. You need people who think differently. That’s a far more important part of diversity than the color of your skin. Reminds me of one of those Dekalb school board candidates who talks about his Dad going to school in the area. That is not a positive point. Georgia is way too inbred in its politics and its school boards.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

July 12th, 2012
2:38 pm

WELCOME to the under-rug world of the American EDUCRACY where Truth is not only stranger than fiction but also is less believable to those without direct experience within its halls.

Pride and Joy

July 12th, 2012
3:28 pm

Shel, you said it better than I every could…
” it’s not hard for me to understand. It is impossible for me to understand…”
IMPOSSIBLE for me to understand how anyone could be so callous and cruel and uncaring.
I am praying for the boys and am praying for a jail and an incarceration for the wicked, greedy monsters.

Pride and Joy

July 12th, 2012
3:32 pm

What kills me is the so-called leaders at the top of the university talked about the “humane” thing to do for Sandusky. Humane? For Sandusky?
What about what was humane for the innocent little souls? What about the humane thing for them?
I would love to brand the word “humane” on all of their tongues so they will never forget that word.

Dr. Proud Black Man

July 12th, 2012
3:33 pm

@bu2

“Imagine if it were your friend and colleague at work who you knew for 30 years who was suddenly accused of being a pedophile.”

I would have no problems reporting a close friend to the authorities if I suspected foul play with kids. Can’t speak for other people but for me it’s always about the children.

bootney farnsworth

July 12th, 2012
3:34 pm

I don’t think its possible to overestimate the power major college football has over the big colleges.
at one time the president of FSU famously said Bowden has more power than he did.

just consider the uproar over Crowell at UGA. based on the comments on the various AJC boards, the school was in the wrong, not him. there are two sets of rules in college – football/basketball and everyone else.

Penn State stonewalled for a simple reason: they thought they could get away with it, and they nearly did. a few raped children is a small price to pay to keep Jo Pa and the big money alumni boosters happy.

sickening, but there it is.

consider Bobby Louder @ Auburn. he ran that school for three decades, the major force in hiring Presidents, much less coaches.

consider Arkansas and the Bobby Patrino. Patrino was able to ignore rules and it suited him. and would still be doing so if he hadn’t had an accident.

consider UGA again, and the incredible pressure on Mark Richt for having the gall to have the strictist rules for player behavior in the SEC.

consider even GPC: six sports teams which nobody goes to see, athletes to pay for, and the expense of travel/housing/ect. 282 people laid off, and all sports survived intact.

education is badly broken in the US, and this is as classic exhibit A as it gets

bootney farnsworth

July 12th, 2012
3:36 pm

consider this yet again:

Penn State sat on this, and enabled the sickest of all criminals with a very simple logic. in the court of public opinion, football trumps child sexual abuse.

bootney farnsworth

July 12th, 2012
3:40 pm

Penn State should not be allowed to field a team for 6 years. 6 years. this would allow enough time to flush out everyone even remotely involved.

the president at the time should be facing jail time for obstruction of justice, as should most of the coaching staff.

bu2

July 12th, 2012
3:59 pm

@Dr. Proud
Its not a case of whether you would report it. Its that it is difficult for these people to accept that he had done it. And they think about the person they know, not the victims they don’t. Anonymous is easier to ignore and not care about than a face you know. So they talk about being humane to their friend but ignore the anonymous victim. And its such a horrible crime, they probably didn’t want to deal with it at all. It took them 17(!) days to decide to not really do anything. The Catholic church (with people serving Christ, not a university) did the exact same thing. They let pedophiles go on to other parishes without warning the other parish.

Its not excusable, but it is understandable.

Shar

July 12th, 2012
4:18 pm

When you see the stammering, the quasi-apologies, the insincere attempts to dance around any apology that might admit guilt, it becomes very clear that, when it comes down to the bone, these enablers regard the victims as expendible. For the administrators and the bishops, the coaches and the priests ‘made a mistake’ and can be excused on the basis of ‘being humane’ or ‘forgiveness’, attributes that are associated with the people who should be in authority, not the perpetrators. They don’t want to deal with this distasteful problem and they don’t want any guilt by association, so instead they make themselves feel more ‘humane’ and ‘forgiving’ by turning a blind eye to the whole situation. bu2, I think they all accepted that ‘Jerry had a problem’ just like so many priests and bishops knew who ‘had a problem’, but they recoil from the need to acknowledge it or cope with the perp, regardless of how well they knew him. So much easier to pass someone along to another parish or let them retire gracefully, all the while knowing that their ability to troll for and groom victims is unimpeded. But after all, you’ve hinted at their behavior and that should work as a good scolding, now shouldn’t it? And at all costs, the greater good of protecting the power and glory with which you personally are associated must be served. After all, ‘outsiders’ would never understand ‘the way things work’ and they would upset the apple cart if they were allowed in.

The idea of a victim, in these cases a child who is acutely vulnerable as he either does not have parents or they are too powerless or obedient to fight back, is dismissed. They are simply nonexistent. These guys who are caught have that blank look in their eyes that clearly conveys the trap they are in: They still truly believe that the kids just don’t matter, ,any more than young boys with permanent brain damage from concussions or twisted bodies, but they will be damned if they speak what is to them an obvious truth.

Sensationalistic

July 12th, 2012
4:42 pm

The biggest question is when does the person reporting the child abuse stop following up on the investigation? Car accident eye witnesses normally just say what they saw to the officer and then are excused never to be heard again. When it comes to grave travesties like this, if Paterno said something to his Athletic Director or President, is that enough?

I’d like to think that the “higher-ups” would do the right thing but it seems here it was far from it. More closely to the question asked, in a high school setting, if a newly hired teacher reported something to the superiors and the superiors said they would take care of it, I imagine that’s the most they can do. Perhaps I am missing a certain piece of the law, but I would imagine that for all of these situations that when you report to your superior, that you bring along the chief of police to the table to make sure it is handled.

My2Cents

July 12th, 2012
5:53 pm

In this case it not only is morals on the part of the whistle-blower but fear of retribution. If I found my boss or co-worker engaged in this sort of thing I would do my best to stop it, but it really would not destroy my career even if I was fired. These football jocks live and breath it and have little to fall back on if they get drummed out of the business. I can understand the fear part but I don’t understand how the people who knew could live with the knowledge, interact with the perp and still sleep at night all that time.

Dr. Monica Henson

July 12th, 2012
8:33 pm

There is a culture of circling the wagons in sports at the high school level where coaches and athletic directors, along with administrators, will protect their own that is impossible to understand if you haven’t been a high school coach (I have been the only female coach on a high school staff when I was a teacher, and I also witnessed this phenomenon when I became an administrator). Football is among the most powerful of coaching cultures in high school. I imagine that this culture is exponentially more powerful at the collegiate level. That’s the only explanation I can think of for the Penn State athletic department and administration’s willingness to shelter Sandusky and not report him.

JW

July 12th, 2012
8:34 pm

Have to agree with bootney on this one. Penn State needs MAJOR sanctions regarding their football program. And each and EVERY employee from the president and board to the faculty to the secretarial and janitorial staff to the part timers should have training regarding reporting of child sexual or other abuse by an outside party that includes law enforcement. In fact, such training should be offered to the students as well, and manditory if they have a campus job that deals in any way with children. The local Child Advocacy Center could handle that and they should be WELL compensated by the university for providing such training.

Truth in Moderation

July 12th, 2012
9:36 pm

The adult witnesses could have stopped it cold. They should have physically intervened and RESCUED the child! There was nothing to stop them. Sandusky had no clothes on and was unarmed. At least one of the witnesses was a jock-type.

I am here today because someone, a FEMALE neighbor did this for ME! At age 8, I was walking down my own street in broad daylight, to meet with a friend. A strange car pulled up next to me and the guy asked for directions. When I couldn’t help him, he asked me to get in the car and he would take me to my friend’s house. I had been trained to not accept a ride with strangers, although I was very innocent and would never have believed that an adult would try to hurt me. When I said “no”, he jumped out of the car and grabbed me, intending to force me into the car. I have never been so TERRIFIED in all of my life! Thankfully, my neighbor was out in her yard and heard my screams. She IMMEDIATELY came running (with hedge trimmers) and as soon as the scumbag saw her, he dropped me, jumped in his car and screeched off. Of course, she had no idea if the man was armed. IT DIDN’T MATTER! There is a special place in Heaven for “Cherrie” and I will always be grateful for such a courageous woman.

Lee

July 12th, 2012
9:56 pm

The thing I can’t get past is that at least TWO ADULT MALES witnessed the abuse on separate occasions but DID NOTHING to stop the act.

Not even a simple “Hey, what the Hell are you doing!?!?!?”

Disgusting doesn’t come close to the emotions I feel for the pathetic den of snakes up at Penn State.

Jeff Schultz had a blog today advocating for the NCAA to give Penn State the “death penalty”. I agree.

Truth in Moderation

July 13th, 2012
12:13 am

Perhaps the answer is that they didn’t ignore it. Sports journalist Mark Madden called it on April 4th , 2011.
http://www.timesonline.com/columnists/sports/mark_madden/madden-sandusky-a-state-secret/article_863d3c82-5e6f-11e0-9ae5-001a4bcf6878.html

He later revealed this:
http://www.nesn.com/2011/11/jerry-sandusky-rumored-to-have-been-pimping-out-young-boys-to-rich-donors-says-mark-madden.html
It was in response to this article:
http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/03/jerry_sandusky_former_penn_sta.html
“While the grand jury has been hearing testimony, Sandusky has been devoting time to fundraising for The Second Mile.
In January, the organization received the go-ahead from Centre County commissioners to apply for a $3 million state grant to pay for an $8.5 million learning center on 60 acres near the University Park Airport.
The facility would eventually include housing for up to 100 children.”

“Missing DA investigated Sandusky case”
http://www.hlntv.com/article/2011/11/10/sadusky-case-and-missing-da-investigation

Danny Haszard

July 13th, 2012
5:05 am

Penn State,Pedophile Priest and Jehovah’s Witnesses molestation unholy trinity big news same week.
Jehovah’s Witnesses hit with $28 million sex abuse settlement Oakland,Calif.-Google it.

Many court documents and news events prove that Jehovah Witnesses require two witnesses when a child comes forward with allegations of molestation within the congregation.
It has also been shown that child molesters within the organization usually have not been identified to the congregation members or the public at large.
These people engage in a door to door ministry, possibly exposing children to pedophiles.
The Watchtower corporation has paid out millions in settlement money already.

Danny Haszard *tell the truth don’t be afraid*

William Casey

July 13th, 2012
7:39 am

I believe that the fact that Penn State has prided itself for forty years as being a University that did college football “the right way” had a lot to do with the decision to cover this up. College football coaches of long tenure achieve iconic stature and enormous power. He had no peers, none to tell him, “Hey, Joe, YOU have to do something about this right now.” I’m fairly certain that Coach Paterno psyched himself into believing that “this isn’t happening.” In all probability, he simply wanted this to go away. I’m not at all defending Joe Paterno. I’m simply trying to understand how this could happen.

Archie

July 13th, 2012
2:03 pm

Pedophiles are very often masters of deceit and manipulation, which is a factor in which why many of them are able to cover their bloody tracks for so long. I can’t say for Pennsylvania, but in Georgia just about everyone who works with children to any degree (clergy excepted) is a mandated reporter and must report to DFCS any suspicion of child abuse or neglect. Failure to do so could mean that the mandated reporter could be prosecuted as an accessory, should the issue that should have been reported goes to court. Like Dr. Henson, I agree that one of the unwritten laws of education is or should be; “never underestimate the power of the football coach.” Some teachers did that (over the years that I taught) and found out their contracts would not be renewed at the end of the year. The word went around quickly; “Don’t cross the football coach.” I also agree that a typical tactic of High school administrators and athletic directors when threatened by scandal is to “circle the wagons and stay in there until the whole thing blows over.” (Don’t knock it, it works!) I wonder what would have happened if Joe Paterno had decided to take the moral high road with his tremendous influence as the football coach, to follow up on this egregarious misbehavior (I’m being euphemistic!) and put a stop to it? His legacy would have been more untarnished than ever! As it is, penn State has a stain on thrir reputation that will remain for years.

Criminal Minds

July 14th, 2012
9:47 am

I think all parties that should had acted on behalf of the children must be held accountable, especially the board of trustees as that is a major problem when those with responsibility for oversight in these organizations fail to do the job.

Boards of education in public schools are a prime example of being disconnected and not knowing what is really going on aand not holding their one employee, the superintendent accountable i.e. Beverly Hall and now Errol Davis in the Atlanta Public Schools.

Pride and Joy

July 14th, 2012
1:48 pm

William Casey, you said Joe Paterno had no peers to tell him to do the right thing.
I don’t know if you realize the depths of the truth of your statement.
My boss, who has a Ph.D. in physics said this:
In the South, the closest thing to God is a high school football coach…and the university football coach is God.
Football, not Jesus Christ, is worshipped here.
It still shocks me. It still angers me and it scares the he)) out of me.

And

ftrsports

July 16th, 2012
4:51 pm

There’s a petition for anyone that thinks Penn St should get the Death Penalty. It sends an email to the NCAA’s presidents office with every signature

http://ftrsports.com/blackout-the-whiteout-petition-for-ncaa-to-shut-down-psu-football/

Truth in Moderation

July 17th, 2012
11:32 pm

@Pride and Joy
July 14th, 2012
1:48 pm

“In the South,….”
Excuse me, but last I heard, PENN STATE IS IN THE NORTH. They had a statue of Paterno and ice cream named after him. I haven’t heard of a YEARS LONG child trafficking ring operating like this at UGA. As a Southerner, I HATE FOOTBALL. My home schooled kids have never attended a football game in their lives. We don’t own a TV, so no Monday night time waster.
All that shows from your comment is raw prejudice against all Southerners. Sheesh!
Are you a teacher in Georgia? If so, “it scares the he)) out of me.”

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