Pennsylvania will prosecute former Penn State President Graham Spanier on charges that he helped cover up sex abuse charges against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, the state attorney general announced. She also announced new charges against two Spanier deputies.
“This case is about three powerful and influential men who held positions at the very top of one the most prestigious universities in the nation, three men who used their positions at Penn State to conceal and cover up for years activities of a known child predator,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly at a Harrisburg press conference on Nov. 1.
The state charged Spanier with one count of perjury, two counts of endangering the welfare of children and two counts of criminal conspiracy, all third-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines.
He is also being charged with one count each of obstruction and conspiracy, punishable by up to two years in prison and $5,000 in fines. A final charge of failure to report suspected child abuse is punishable by 90 days imprisonment and a $300 fine.
Two of Spanier’s deputies, Timothy Curley and Gary Schultz, will face charges of obstruction, endangering the welfare of children and conspiracy. The two are already awaiting trial on charges of perjury and failure to report suspected abuse.
Spanier was removed as university president in Nov. 2011, just after sex abuse charges were announced against Sandusky. The ex-president has been on sabbatical from his ongoing tenured professorship, according to a university statement, and will be placed on leave from that immediately.
Schultz is the retired Senior Vice President for Finance and Business. Curley is Penn State Athletic Director, though he was placed on administrative leave last year as well. According to the university, he is on a fixed-term contract that will not be renewed when it expires on June 30, 2013.
All three men, as far back as 1998, knew about one sexual assault complaint and in 2001 learned of another, Kelly charged. She said emails, notes and a bill from a lawyer prove the three were discussing the assaults.
All three “repeatedly obstructed attempts by law enforcement and investigators to gather evidence about Sandusky assaults which had occurred on campus,” Kelly said. A 2010 grand jury subpoenaed documents that the university did not turn over until April 2012, “after these men had left their jobs,” she added.
In a videotaped statement, Spanier’s attorney, Tim Lewis, said the charges are “a politically-motivated frame-up of an innocent man.” Lewis said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is known to be personally hostile to Spanier, accusing the governor of using public resources to pursue a personal grudge. Lewis also attempted to pin cover-up charges onto the governor. He said Corbett, as attorney general until 2011, knew about the allegations.
“Today’s presentment is the latest desperate act by Governor Tom Corbett to cover up and divert attention away from the fact that he failed to warn [the] Penn State Community about the suspicion surrounding Jerry Sandusky, and instead allowed a child predator to roam free in Pennsylvania.”
Lewis said Kelly and her staff have refused for a year to meet with Spanier or his lawyers; or to allow him another chance in front of the grand jury to “clarify” his testimony.
Lewis said that a 1998 investigation exonerated his client Spanier, and that the 2001 incident was characterized to the president as “horseplay.”
Penn State declined any further comment.
In a related development, the Penn State Board of Trustees on Oct. 26 voted unanimously to create a subcommittee empowered to approve possible settlements with Sandusky’s victims.
Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence on 45 counts of child sexual abuse.
Photo by John Tecce via Facebook
The Second Mile, the charity organization founded by Jerry Sandusky – the former Penn State coach convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse in June – announced Monday it is postponing plans to transfer its programs and assets to a Houston-based nonprofit.
Earlier this summer, The Second Mile requested that it be allowed to transfer its programs and assets, totaling nearly $2 million, to Arrow Child & Family Ministries, Inc. However, The Second Mile Chief Executive, David Woodle, said the deal is suspended until all ongoing damage claims filed by the lawyers of Sandusky’s victims are resolved.
Monday, Woodle announced that his organization - in agreement with Pennsylvania attorney general and lawyers representing four youth victimized by Sandusky - has requested that the Orphans’ Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Center County stay a previous Petition for Distribution of Assets filed by the nonprofit.
“Both The Second Mile and Arrow feel that staying the Petition at this time will better serve all involved as it limits further stress on the victims and avoids unnecessary litigation costs,” Woodle is quoted in an official statement released by the nonprofit.
The organization was founded in 1977 by Sandusky. Woodle said the organization would continue operations, using cash reserves.
The Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse case has shone a harsh light on the limitations of the child protection policies put in place by youth-serving organizations. Sandusky, who served for years under Joe Paterno as Penn State’s assistant football coach, is currently on trial, facing 52 counts of sexually abusing young boys.
“Based on our 12 years of working with youth-serving organizations, it’s clear that most aren’t doing enough,” said Cindy McElhinney, director of programs for Darkness to Light, a national nonprofit dedicated to preventing child abuse. “And this is evidenced by the stories playing out in the media right now, including the Sandusky case. Some organizations take it very seriously and are doing a great job, but many still act like it won’t happen to them, that the children they serve aren’t vulnerable.”
A state-of-the-art abuse prevention policy is not only critical to protecting the youth you serve, but also your organization from liability, McElhinney said. “Unfortunately, in addition to having that ‘not me’ attitude, many youth-serving organizations lack the information and know-how to put together an aggressive, comprehensive, zero-tolerance policy,” she said.
The following are six keys for crafting a sound child protection policy, according to McElhinney and other experts Youth Today spoke to:
1. Make protection your prime concern.
Keeping the youth you serve safe should be your No. 1 priority, no matter what your organization’s driving mission is, said Les Nichols, national vice president of club and child safety for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “Detecting and preventing child molesters from gaining access to children is a tough, demanding, full-time challenge that requires unwavering diligence and commitment,” Nichols said. “Molesters don’t fit into a convenient stereotype and everyone —administrators, employees, volunteers, parents and even the children themselves — must be taught to have the courage to speak out if something seems wrong or out-of-place and to follow-through by reporting it to the appropriate authority.”
Making your commitment to child protection known to potential employees and volunteers will help to scare away would-be perpetrators. “Pedophiles and child molesters look for organizations where polices are lax,” McElhinney said. “A strong commitment and strict policies presents a considerable barrier and limits their access to children.”
2. Give every adult a background check -- and not just when they join.
It’s standard industry practice for youth-serving organizations to check the criminal backgrounds and references of employees and volunteers, and screen out those with a history of violence or abuse. However, your protection policy should not stop there.
“We do not make exceptions for people known to our organization,” said Amy Charles, associate director of Mission Kids, a Pennsylvania-based child advocacy center. “All of our vendors who visit our center, such as the cleaning service, copy machine repair staff and I/T support, also must undergo criminal background checks before being permitted entry.”
And the background checks shouldn’t be a one-time occurrence. Many organizations such as Mission Kids conduct background checks every few years or so. Some do even more.
“Every Boys & Girls Club professional and volunteer who has direct access to children is required to undergo a thorough background check every year, meeting or exceeding industry standards,” Nichols said.
3. Limit (or prohibit) one adult/one child interactions.
“Grooming is a systematic attempt by a pedophile or molester to establish friendships, develop trust and solidify relationships with children,” said Dr. Michael Ian Rothenberg, clinical director and founder of the Center for Counseling and Sexual Health of Winter Park, Fla. And grooming almost always happens when the adult has opportunities to give gifts, time and attention while slowly increasing the level of both physical and sexual contact with vulnerable youth, Rothenberg said.
“If you reduce one-on-one interactions between adults and children, you greatly reduce risk,” McElhinney said. “More than 80 percent of sexual abuse occurs in one-adult/one-child situations.”
If one-on-one interactions are necessary, McElhinney said, they should always be at a time and place that is observable and interruptible by others in your organization.
Prohibiting adult access to youth outside of your organization and its programs is also critical.
“Child abuse by an employee or volunteer of a youth-serving organization usually won’t happen at your facility or during one of your activities, but rather offsite and after hours,” McElhinney said. “It may seem innocent to allow an employee or volunteer to do something as basic as driving a child home, but you can’t open that door of opportunity no matter the circumstances. There’s always a safer, better way to do it. And it should be clearly spelled out in your policies.”
4.Train your staff to spot behavioral red flags.
As an expert on the grooming behaviors of child predators, Rothenberg believes that everyone in a youth-serving organization should keep their eyes open to what can appear to be an unusual interest in a child.
“This includes the people that we know and, seemingly, trust,” Rothenberg said.
Perhaps the biggest red flag is inappropriate touching -- which could include tickling, lapsitting, horseplay and even hugs.
“It’s often difficult to identify what is inappropriate,” McElhinney said. “And that’s why it’s important to have rules for touching clearly written down for all your adults to read and understand.”
Giving preferential treatment to a child is another, more subtle behavior that is often used by child abusers.
“Offering gifts, keeping secrets and actively seeking one-on-one time is cause for alarm,” McElhinney said.
Sometimes, predators may try to build trust with youth, especially teens, by treating them like adults.
“They may expose them to explicit language, dirty jokes, alcohol and even pornographic material,” McElhinney said.
It’s also important to closely watch the children in your programs that may be the most vulnerable and isolated, added Rothenberg. They are the ones who will likely be targeted for sexual abuse and molestation.
5. Make the incident reporting process clear.
If you have set very clear and strict rules about what behaviors and actions aren’t allowed, it should be very easy for an organization’s staff to report violations, McElhinney said. “Ideally, there should be no gray areas and zero-tolerance for breaking these important rules that protect the youth you serve.”
But it’s also vital for your organization’s staff to have a clear understanding of who they can talk to about their concerns and suspicions, said Lisa Friel, vice president, sexual misconduct consulting and investigations at T&M Protection Resources.
“Ideally, there should be more than one avenue for reporting concerns and suspicions,” Friel said. “We hear all too often that employees are not comfortable sharing such matters with the person designated, and for a variety of reasons – one of the most prevalent being that the person they are to report to is friends with or close to the person being reported.”
Mission Kids’ Charles agrees. “It’s important to create an environment in which your employees and volunteers feel comfortable raising questions and concerns,” she said. “It reduces barriers to coming forward, reporting and being proactive about preventing and responding to child sexual abuse.”
6. Communicate your policies to employees, volunteers, parents and youth.
“All adults who work with youth should undergo rigorous training about healthy relationships with children, the policies that a youth serving organization has in place and about reporting anything that seems strange, unusual or just plain unsettling,” Charles said.
Unfortunately, parents and their kids that they entrust to you are often left out of the loop, McElhinney said. “Parents need to know about your commitment to protecting their children, and they also need to play a role in your organization’s efforts to prevent sexual abuse,” she said. “The youth you serve need to not only know the rules that they need to follow, but also why. After all, a potential perpetrator is far less likely to abuse a child who is confident and aware.”
The Centers for Disease Control, in collaboration with groups such as Darkness to Light and the Boys and Girls Club of America, has put together a comprehensive guide to help youth-serving organizations start building policies and procedures for preventing child sexual abuse. It’s available for free online.
Photo by Daily of the Day
People also are asking why it was not reported to authorities, mainly the police, earlier.
One question, especially, comes to the surface. In 2002, then graduate assistant football coach Mike McQueary allegedly witnessed a sexual assault against a 10-year-old boy in the locker room shower by Jerry Sandusky, the man accused of molesting eight boys over the course of 15 years. In grand jury testimony McQueary said he spoke to his father and then head football coach Joe Paterno about the incident. In recent days, however, he has asserted in an email that he also contacted the police. Right now, at least, it is not clear if he reported it to law enforcement.
However, this episode is a forceful reminder that one should be mindful of who has the moral, ethical and/or legal obligation to report child abuse to authorities. Each state and the District of Columbia has statutes identifying mandatory reporters of child abuse (such as, physicians, medical and child welfare personnel, nurses, licensed psychologists, professional counselors, and school teachers and administrators) and the circumstances under which they are required to make a report and to a certain extent, the consequences for failing to report.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families, failure to report child abuse by those mandated to do so is a misdemeanor in 39 states. It is a felony in three states. Most states, however, do not specify penalties associated with failing to report. Eighteen states require any person who witnesses child abuse to report it while many states specify this for only certain professionals, such as some of the ones mentioned above. HHS also finds that 17 states require reporting specifically to law enforcement.
So, only certain people have the legal obligation to report abuse or suspected abuse, and it is not clear if those required to report instances of abuse are mandated to report it to law enforcement. Such inconsistencies and lack of clarity create confusion about mandatory reporting.
On Sunday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett stated that new laws are needed to ensure reports of child sexual abuse are made to the proper government authorities, that is, the police or a state’s child protective agency. Similarly, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez from (D-N.J.) announced Tuesday plans to introduce the Child Abuse Reporting Enforcement (CARE) Act. This would require states to mandate the reporting of child abuse to law enforcement and/or child protective services in order to receive federal social services funding, and to make it a felony for any individual who fails to report such abuse. The senator’s bill also would specify that all witnesses report abuse to the law enforcement authorities and child protective services.
We can assume that states will follow suit as this is currently at the forefront of America’s consciousness and their appears to be limited uniformity and consistency of laws governing child abuse reporting, even for those not legally mandated to report abuse.
Many people are afraid to “get involved” in people’s business, especially regarding family issues. They are afraid of conflict or retaliation, especially if the case was investigated and the abuse was unfounded. This is understandable, absolutely. However, didn’t that person do his/her part by reporting it to the police or social service agency?
I thought we were all fighting for the best interests of our nation’s children, not ourselves. If you suspect child abuse or even witnessed it but don’t want to “get involved,” please go find a pay phone, call 911 and report the abuse. That way your anonymity will be more ensured than by using your phone.
Regardless, I would like to offer the following: Each semester in all of my criminal justice classes, I spend quite a bit of time discussing child sexual abuse. I ask my students, “Who has to report child abuse?” Most of them state those already mentioned above. I let them finish, then go up to each one of them and say, “YOU are required to report suspected child abuse.”
The question of who has a moral or ethical obligation is moot.
We ALL do.