An independent investigation into how Pennsylvania State University handled the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal says the school's senior leaders showed "total disregard for the safety and welfare" of Sandusky's victims, and failed to follow provisions of federal law that require the reporting of such crimes to authorities.
The Freeh Report—conducted by a group headed by former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh—finds that top brass at the university, including Athletic Director Tim Curley, former university vice president Gary Schultz, former university president Graham Spanier, and former football head coach Joe Paterno, knew of Sandusky's actions and showed more concern for Sandusky's position with the school than the well-being of victims.
Last month, Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of 48 charges stemming from numerous sexual abuse incidents ranging from 1994 to 2009.
One of the key findings of the Freeh report is an E-mail correspondence that took place between Curley, Schultz, Spanier and Paterno after a Feb. 9, 2001, incident where Sandusky was caught with a boy in the locker room showers by former Penn State football assistant coach Mike McQueary.
After Curley and Schultz decided they were going to approach Sandusky about the incident and alert the authorities—which was discussed in E-mails that leaked earlier this month—Curley and Paterno decided to talk about the incident with Sandusky but keep the information from police.
The report also found that senior school officials knew of a 1998 incident of abuse by Sandusky but failed to take any action.
While the report finds no evidence that the school's board knew of Sandusky's actions, the report criticizes their inaction after the allegations against Sandusky came to light in March 2011, concluding the board was "over-confident in Spanier's ability to handle crises," including Sandusky's arrest and the eventual firing of Paterno.
The actions of Penn State's top officials amounts to a failure to follow provisions of the Clery Act, a federal law enacted in 1990 that requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to disclose information about crime on and near their campuses.
Before the investigation report was released, Paterno's family made public a letter written by the former college football icon before he died in January.
In the letter, Paterno rejected the notion that his former assistant Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of boys amounted to a "football scandal" or tarnished the accomplishments of his players or Penn State's reputation as a whole.
"Over and over again, I have heard Penn State officials decrying the influence of football and have heard such ignorant comments like Penn State will no longer be a 'football factory' and we are going to 'start' focusing on integrity in athletics," Paterno wrote. "These statements are simply unsupported by the five decades of evidence to the contrary—and succeed only in unfairly besmirching both a great university and the players and alumni of the football program who have given of themselves to help make it great. This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one."
Scott Berkowitz, the president and founder of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), called the report “stunning.”
“It is shocking that the disregard for the children who were victimized was so widespread, and the systemic failure so deep,” Berkowitz said in a release. “The leaders of every school in America need … to make sure that everyone knows that the safety of kids is always the highest priority, regardless of the potential embarrassment to the school.”
The report concludes with the special counsel offering 119 recommendations to the school, including a committee that would have oversight responsibility for all regulatory obligations, including the Clery Act.
"It is critical that Old Main, the Board and the Penn State community never forget these failures and commit themselves to strengthening an open, compliant and victim sensitive environment," the report states. "Everyone has the duty to 'blow the whistle' on anyone who breaks this trust, no matter how powerful or prominent they may appear to be."
7/12/12 5:15 p.m.: This story was updated with a statement from RAINN.