The following editorial appeared in Friday's Philadelphia Inquirer:
Devastating is the only way to describe the findings of a special inquiry into the scandal surrounding convicted child rapist Jerry Sandusky.
Devastating for the leadership at Pennsylvania State University, devastating for the legacy of late football coach Joe Paterno, devastating for anyone who loves the school. But the conclusions of the independent panel led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh stand as both a condemnation and a rallying cry for broad reform.
The report should spur state lawmakers to move quickly as demanded by victims' advocates to "enact laws to protect children instead of perpetrators." Accordingly, legislators should rebuff special interests and open a window to relief in the courts for long-ago victims of abuse.
The Freeh report confirmed the broad outlines of an apparent cover-up dating as far back as 1998, when Sandusky was accused of showering with a boy on campus. It offers a shocking portrayal of decision-making by university officials, who were less than forthcoming about their unwillingness to ferret out a serial predator. Above all else, they sought to protect Penn State from scandal.
Freeh said school officials "never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest."
Penn State trustees should have kept closer tabs on school administrators, but they deserve credit for launching the Freeh inquiry. At Freeh's urging, the school has already changed policies on contact with minors, reporting abuse allegations, and campus security. Additional steps recommended by the panel should continue an important healing process.
Even more apparent now is the upending of Paterno's legacy. The coach with the most major-college football victories will forever be remembered as a participant in a 14-year cover-up of child sexual abuse.
In line with the Paterno family's acknowledgement that their patriarch "wasn't perfect," the Freeh report shows the need for systemic reforms at Penn State, and likely other schools, to make certain that campus safety always takes precedence over any fear of bad publicity for the university, its sports teams, or a celebrated person like Joe Pa.