We have been following the Penn State scandal and the school’s possible culpability in the matter. Now the long-awaited Freeh report has been issued (a copy is below). The report is a damning indictment of the school which is found to have failed to protect the children in order to protect the school from embarrassment. This included “striking lack of empathy for child abuse victims by the most senior leaders of the University.”
Both former president Graham Spanier and former head football coach Joe Paterno are found to have “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.” Former university vice president Gary Schultz and ex-athletic director Tim Curley were also found to have failed to protect the children. These officials effectively facilitated the abuse by continuing to give Sandusky the means used for the abuse: “Indeed, that continued access provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims. Some coaches, administrators and football program staff members ignored the red flags of Sandusky’s behaviors and no one warned the public about him.” The board of trustees is also mentioned as failing its responsibility in the face of what Freeh found was active concealment of the crimes: “These men concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities. They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001.”
Athletic director Tim Curley is found to have clearly revealed the alleged crimes to former head coach Joe Paterno but “they changed the plan and decided not to make a report to the authorities.” Indeed, while McQueary reported the assault to Paterno on Saturday, February 10, Paterno reported the incident to Curley and Schultz on Sunday, February 11 as Paterno did not “want to interfere with their weekends.”
Cynthia Baldwin, a former Board member and Chair, also is criticized as the school’s first general counsel. The report states that she failed to brief the board until such a briefing was demanded by a trustee and downplayed the significance for the school. She also failed to bring in someone experienced with criminal matters and opposed an independent investigation. Ironically, in the effort to avoid independent review and action, Baldwin contributed to a far worse result for her client.
The report will no doubt assist any lawsuit for negligence against the university. Penn State is a state university but may not be able to use sovereign immunity because it is not a member of the Pennsylvania System of Higher Education.
There is also the question of liability for the Second Mile organization. On March 19, 2001, Curley met with the executive director of the Second Mile and “shared the information we had with him.” The Second Mile leadership simply found the matter to be a “non‐incident” and took no further action.
It is a report that shows a consistent and disturbing series of failures in university and Second Mile officials taking the allegation seriously or taking meaningful action to protect these victims.
This is one of the areas where the threat of liability would be a good thing. There is no evidence of concern for the victims in this matter. What does come out of the report and earlier news account is a football culture that overwhelmed every other concern at the university. This has long been a concern among academics over the degree of reliance and identification of universities with their sports programs. The report describes Penn State as creating a “culture of reverence.”
Freeh notes “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.”
Here is the report: freeh.report