Report Finds Penn State Officials Negligent in Handling of Child Sex Abuse Allegations

A newly-released report on the findings surrounding the sex scandals at Penn State University says officials close to the team demonstrated “total disregard” for the victims of Jerry Sandusky. 

At the request of Penn State University (PSU) board of trustees, an independent investigation into the sex scandals surrounding the university was conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh to determine what role the university played in the cover-up of sexual abuse by university employees.

The special investigative counsel’s report concluded that not only were former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and other athletics department officials  aware of previous investigations of child sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky,  “nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity,” Freeh said during a 10 a.m. EST press conference this morning.

The report goes on to say that Paterno, former PSU president Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz were aware of allegations of inappropriate behavior in 1998 and  “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.”

“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. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.  Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.”

At this morning’s conference, Freeh lamented the fact that Sandusky, upon retiring in 1999, received a “very large, unprecedented” retirement package and remained employed at Penn State. Freeh concluded that the 1999 retirement was related to 1998 reports of sexual abuse, which went undisciplined when first reported, out of consideration for ‘people’s weekend plans.’

The report condemed the “striking lack of empathy shown for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not attempting to identify the child who Sandusky assaulted … in 2001. Further, they exposed this child to additional harm by alerting Sandusky, who was the only one who knew the child’s identity.”

“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University. . . repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community and the public at large,” Freeh said this morning.

Paterno was heavily implicated in the cover-up. Freeh told reporters at the news conference this morning, “The evidence shows that Mr. Paterno was made aware of the 1998 investigation of Sandusky, followed it closely, but failed to take any action, even though Sandusky had been a key member of his coaching staff for almost 30 years.”

Freeh’s report also says that PSU board members failed to perform their oversight duties, failing “to inquire reasonably and to demand information from Spanier” upon discovery of the allegations against Sandusky, and said “the Board’s subsequent removal of Paterno as head football coach was poorly handled, as were the Board’s communications with the public.”

In addition to failure of board oversight, fear of bad publicity and failure by multiple parties to make reasonable inquiries, the report cites “a President who discouraged discussion and dissent” and “a lack of awareness of child abuse issues, the Clery Act, and whistleblower policies and protections,” and “a culture of reverence for the football program that is ingrained at all levels of the campus community” as breakdowns in the handling of the situation by Penn State officials.

Representatives for those implicated have declined comment as of late Thursday morning, saying that they have not had an opportunity to read the report.

A draft of a letter Paterno began writing to former players prior to his death last fall surfaced Wednesday. In it, Paterno wrote “This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one.”

Penn State alum Jeffrey Imm decries the actions of university officials in an online petition, saying “Among all of our human rights, our obligation and responsibilities for children’s rights and safety is our foremost priority as adults. Our children are humanity’s future, and their rights, dignity, and safety is the responsibility of every human being.”

Purporting to speak on behalf of a group of alumni and students, the petition goes on to say “We unequivocally condemn the actions of all those individuals and organizations associated with or linked to the Pennsylvania State University who have performed or enabled child sexual abuse, child rape, and other reprehensible acts against children in any way. We seek to raise our voice to make it clear that we support the punishment of all individuals, groups, charities, and institutions actively involved in, enabling, or concealing such child sexual abuse, child rape, and other reprehensible acts against children.”

It continues, “A clear message must be sent by our society that the horrific crimes against children performed by those associated with PSU, including acts performed on PSU campus facilities, will never be tolerated and must never happen again.”

To read the full Freeh report findings, click here.