By Cheyenne Weber
Happy Valley isn’t very happy anymore.
Not the Penn State students on campus nor the alumni who teach here in the high school.
Former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been charged by the state Attorney General with sexually assaulting eight boys over a 15-year span. And those charges and suggestions of a cover-up have painted a broad brushstroke of shame over the entire administration and the football program.
In the wake of the sex abuse scandal, long-time football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier were fired Wednesday night by the university’s board of trustees.
“Joe Pa is this god-like icon and he just did enough legally but not morally,” said Penn State graduate Lisa May who teaches English at the high school.
Several other Penn Manor teachers who graduated from Penn State said they were too upset about the scandal to give a comment.
The central issue is why university officials who were informed of Sandusky’s assault of a young child in the Penn State locker room in 2002 did not report the incident to law enforcement.
“My question is why they kept silent so long,” pondered potential Penn Stater Penn Manor senior Alex Cauler who is considering the school for his engineering degree. “It will hurt their reputation and they will have to work to fix it.”
Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and university vice-president Gary Schultz are charged with perjury for their testimony in front of the grand jury and obstruction of justice. Curley has taken a leave of absence and Schultz has retired from his temporary position at the college.
Hundreds of students rioted Wednesday night after being told of long-time coach Paterno’s firing by telephone call.
“The rioting over the incident just exacerbates things and is not constructive,” said Cauler.
“It’s sad it has to end like this,” said Emily Lyons, a new Penn Manor learning support teacher who also graduated from Penn State.
Pennsylvania state law requires sex abuse charges to be reported to the police. In this case they weren’t. Shock and outrage across the country has smothered the usual pride of the Blue and White, at least for now.
But there’s not much light at the end of the tunnel for this child sex-abuse scandal for the Nittany Lions, even as they head into Saturday’s game against Nebraska without their long-respected coach at the helm.
After an astonishing 46 years with Penn State, Paterno has been the face of Penn State, but his legacy will be forever tarnished.
According to the grand jury report, A graduate assistant told Paterno of an incident he was an eye witness to in the showers of the gym at Penn State. Neither the graduate assistant or Paterno called police. The matter was referred to Curley and Schultz. Their course of action? To tell Jerry he was not allowed to bring kids on campus anymore. The “resolution” was reportedly approved by Spanier.
Sandusky, who maintains his innocence, is the founder of the Second Mile Foundation, a charity to support at-risk youth but from which, the attorney general charges, he groomed victims for assault.
There’s even more to the scandal than meets the eye. Mike McCreary, the graduate student who witnessed the shower incident in 2002 became the assistant coach to Paterno in 2003.
Strange circumstances surround the Centre County District Attorney, Ray Gricar, who first had the opportunity to prosecute Sandusky when charges of child rape by Sandusky were brought to him in 1998. Gricar said at the time that he didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute Sandusky. The D.A. disappeared mysteriously in 2005. His car was found in a parking lot in Lewisburg and the hard drive to his computer was found in the Susquehanna River. Gricar was declared legally dead this past summer. His body has never been found.
Investigations on both the state and national level are continuing, although Paterno is not a target. The state police commissioner called his failure to contact police after being told of the 2002 incident a lapse in “moral responsibility.”
Law enforcement officials have not ruled out prosecution of Spanier.
One of the outrages against the administration is that Sandusky still had priviledges at Penn State and had used the gym, reportedly as recently as two weeks ago. This was after the grand jury testimony had been given and administration officials were clearly informed of the charges against Sandusky.
McQueary, one of the central figures in the burgeoning child sex abuse scandal at Penn State, will coach Saturday when the Nittany Lions play their final home game of the season but many are calling for his dismissal as well.
“We are….Penn State” is the long-practiced chant of pride for the students of Penn State. But whether the students and alumni can say it with pride may take a long, long time to resolve.
Cauler said if he does go to Penn State, he is not going to worry about the scandal or the possible association people might make of graduates from the school.
“I think the people who did this should be criticized,” said Cauler, “not the school or the students.”