Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is none too pleased with the accusations of sexual misconduct that emerged against a former Penn State University defensive assistant coach this past weekend.
Jerry Sandusky, longtime linebackers coach and assistant to legendary head football coach Joe Paterno, was charged Saturday for sexually abusing eight boys. The school’s athletic director and vice president reportedly knew about the assaults, and were charged with failing to report what they knew to the police.
Now, the Education Department announced Wednesday that they are launching an investigation into whether Penn State violated federal law by failing to report the allegations of sex offenses against Sandusky, as my colleague Michele McNeil reported yesterday on the Politics K-12 blog. (UPDATE [11/11, 1:57 p.m.]: McNeil procured the letter, which includes a list of documents investigators want to see, and other demands. Read it here.)
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, or Clery Act for short, requires postsecondary institutions to disclose the number of criminal offenses reported on campus each year, according to the department.
The Office of Federal Student Aid will conduct the investigation into whether officials at Penn State violated the Clery Act by not reporting Sandusky’s alleged sex offenses to officials.
Penn State got one more stomach punch yesterday.
First, news broke in the morning that Paterno, the winningest coach in college football history, would retire at the end of the season.
Then, hours later, the school’s board of trustees voted to fire Paterno immediately, bringing an abrupt and heartbreaking end to a legendary career.
Duncan Speaks Out
Before the news about the Education Department’s investigation and Paterno’s resignation broke today, Duncan spoke with reporters about the Penn State allegations, where he expressed his extreme disappointment.
Duncan said it was “devastating that it was allowed to go on for so long,” and singled out anyone who knew about the allegations and didn’t act upon them, saying that they “were perpetuating the problem.”
Both Paterno and school president Graham Spanier, who was also fired by the board of trustees Wednesday, denied that they knew the details of the allegations that were spelled out in the grand jury report released Saturday.
To Paterno’s credit, he released the following statement yesterday morning after the reports of his retirement began leaking: “I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case. I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief.”
But, as evidenced by the widespread resignations amongst top officials at the school, being retroactively apologetic doesn’t begin to make up for the fact that those same officials knew about a purported sexual offender on their campus and continued to allow him around their football program.
What lessons can high school coaches and school officials learn from the Penn State scandal? First and foremost: If you notice someone around your program doing something they shouldn’t be doing, don’t try and hide it.
In this day and age, it’s likely only a matter of time until that information comes out. And once it does, the longer you’ve let it fester, the worse it becomes. (Especially if you’re letting a potential child molester stay out from behind bars, free to claim more victims.)
Secondly, the ignominious end to Paterno’s otherwise legendary career should serve a harsh reminder. No matter how many wins a coach racks up over the course of his career, one moral lapse could be the undoing of all his or her success.
Paterno won 409 games, more than any other coach in the history of college football, yet, his legacy will always be tainted by this scandal.
Combined with Jim Tressel, the uber-famous Ohio State University coach who resigned earlier this year after news broke that he covered up some of his players receiving improper benefits, it hasn’t been the best year to be a college football coach.
Unlike Ohio State, which only has the NCAA to worry about, Penn State’s got a lot more on its plate, with the Dept. of Ed. investigation.
Other writers have referred to the Sandusky scandal as the worst in the history of college sports, given the stakes of the sexual accusations.
At this point, that’s becoming more and more of a reality.
Check out Duncan’s interview with the Associated Press, via the .
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.