The Most Damning Verdict
Louis Freeh’s investigation of Penn State reveals two things: Joe Paterno must have known, and former university president Graham Spanier must be held accountable.
Posted Thursday, July 12, 2012, at 2:12 PM
The Freeh report will allow Paterno’s supporters to cling to the belief that the coach played a limited role in the university’s horrific decision-making. But the lack of a smoking gun shouldn’t convince us, as Paterno’s family declares in a statement, that the coach had no fear of bad publicity and was “fooled” by Sandusky. Paterno, like Spanier, Curley, and Schultz, heard enough to know that Sandusky needed to be reported to law enforcement. During his long tenure at Penn State, nothing happened with regard to the Nittany Lions football program that Joe Paterno didn’t want to happen. The school’s abdication of its duties rest in large part on his shoulders.
Graham Spanier, too, bears responsibility for what happened at Penn State. Schultz and Curley are facing charges for lying to a grand jury about the Sandusky investigation. Freeh’s report doesn’t state directly that Spanier should be indicted, too. But that’s the decided implication. Spanier knew enough to suspect Sandusky. As Penn State’s president, he could have spared those kids by picking up the phone and calling the police. He could have done that throughout the years on any number of occasions. He didn’t. He should face the consequences now.
Correction, July 13, 2012: This article originally stated that the Clery Act passed in 1998. It was amended that year but originally passed in 1990. (Return to the corrected sentence.)
Emily Bazelon is a Slate senior editor and writes about law, family, and kids. Her forthcoming book, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Empathy and Character. Find her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook or Twitter.