Penn State Sex Abuse Scandal May Lead To New Laws

After an emotional week of revelations, the Penn State football team took the field on Saturday for the first time without its longtime coach Joe Paterno. A child sex abuse scandal involving a former coach has rocked the campus in State College, Pa.

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The circle of responsibility at Penn State has been widening for a week now. First, a former assistant coach was charged with sexually assaulting children. Two college officials were indicted for covering up the crime. Since then, the university president, and head coach Joe Paterno, have lost their jobs. Many of us have stared at rows of photos of people believed to have known something about these crimes over the years. And the questions barely stopped for Saturday's Penn State football game. We're going to talk about all this with NPR's Tom Goldman, who is in State College, Pennsylvania.

Tom, good morning.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: And the game that I mention is a game that apparently, some Penn State fans were quite upset about having coach Joe Paterno miss.

GOLDMAN: Absolutely. It was not your normal Saturday at Beaver Stadium in State College, that's for sure. You know, you had players walking out onto the field with arms locked rather than charging out the tunnel led by Joe Paterno, as they often did for the last 46 years with Paterno at the helm. You had a massive pregame prayer at midfield by both teams. And the crowd of 100,000-plus was, at times, very subdued. Colleague Jeff Brady, who was at the game, said he talked to a Nebraska fan who said even she didn't feel like cheering on her team at times. So yeah, a very kind of strange day. Joe Paterno watched the game on TV. And according to his son, Joe was pleased with the way the team almost pulled out a victory. Nebraska did win that, 17-14.

INSKEEP: And, of course, there are questions about more people here. One of them, Mike McQueary, an assistant coach who witnessed an alleged sexual assault in the locker room at Penn State; told it to his boss, Joe Paterno; but didn't do anything more, didn't break up the assault. And that's led to questions about McQueary. Two people, including the governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett - on NBC yesterday.

GOVERNOR TOM CORBETT: The attorney general made a decision - and I'm going to make this from observations, not from conversations with the attorney general - that he is a witness to this case, that he met the minimum obligation of reporting it up but did not, in my opinion, meet a moral obligation that all of us would have.

INSKEEP: An explanation there, Tom Goldman, of how the man would not be indicted but would be placed on leave, at a minimum, from his job.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. And Steve, Governor Corbett added that he wouldn't be surprised to see Pennsylvania law governing the reporting of sexual assault strengthen even this year. And meanwhile, we're going to look - perhaps even this week - to see if the university takes any further action against Mike McQueary - who, as you said, was put on administrative leave - to see if the university will perhaps fire him, the way they did Joe Paterno and former Penn State president Graham Spanier.

INSKEEP: Are you going to be looking in the coming days to see if there are even more people who get dragged down by this?

GOLDMAN: Well, certainly. And, you know, you've got three separate investigations either continuing or really ramping up in earnest, starting this week - one by the Pennsylvania attorney general and state police, one by the U.S. Department of Education.

And then there's an investigation by the new Penn State Board of Trustees special committee. It was named just in the past few days. All of the members of this special committee will be from the Penn State Board of Trustees. Hopefully, Steve, the public will trust that a special committee, made up of representatives from the school, will conduct an independent investigation.

INSKEEP: Tom, thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: You bet.

INSKEEP: NPR's Tom Goldman is in State College, Pennsylvania.

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