Disturbing new evidence indicates that long-time Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno may have played a more significant role than previously thought in the university’s decision not to alert law enforcement officials about Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of a child in the university’s locker room shower in 2001.
Prior to his passing away earlier this year, Paterno said that he had alerted university officials about the incident and had, essentially, left it up to his superiors to decide what to do about it. Newly surfaced emails, however, suggest that Paterno played a direct role in discouraging senior administrators from notifying child services about the abuse allegation.
One email from athletic director Tim Curley to the university president is particularly alarming because it suggests that Joe Paterno may have discouraged reporting the incident:
“After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday — I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps,” he purportedly wrote the following day.
Those “next steps” were to report Jerry Sandusky to child welfare authorities and to notify Sandusky’s youth charity Second Mile–the channel through which Sandusky met most of his victims. The university ultimately did nothing, even though Sandusky had been accused of another child sex abuse crime on university property in 1998.
Curley was “uncomfortable.” Meanwhile, Sandusky would go on to rape and molest numerous other children.
Penn State officials apparently believed that getting Sandusky “help” was the most urgent priority, not protecting children. They also seemed very concerned about shielding the university from embarrassment and legal liability.
Others have suggested that Paterno might have been motivated by a desire to save his job. He was in the midst of a stretch of disappointing football seasons and, despite his legendary status, some were calling upon to step down as head coach at the time. An embarrassing sex abuse scandal by a former coach, who had been allowed access to children on university property despite previous troubling behavior with children, would have added pressure to Paterno to resign.
Whatever Paterno’s reasons were–this whole story stinks to high heaven.
As more evidence emerges, Paterno begins to look more and more like someone who put his personal loyalty to Sandusky above the welfare of children, despite repeated credible and alarming allegations of sex abuse.
Quietly looking to “help” someone whom you suspect may have raped more than one child in your locker room, instead of calling the police, is indefensible.
Throughout all the email conversations among senior administrators that have emerged, there is precious little concern for the children involved. No one, it seems, was too concerned about “helping” them. These are acts of negligence that may well end up sending some of those administrator’s behind bars.
But what a dark day for the legacy of Joe Paterno–long looked upon as a near saint in the world of college athletics. The fact that other officials had knowledge of the allegations against Sandusky, and also did nothing, only adds to the outrage of this story.
And it should be a lesson to all that there is no professional concern, nor any loyal concern for a friend, that can outweigh the absolute necessity of safeguarding children from a suspected sexual predator. That fact should be obvious to anyone.