Believe it or not, folks, there's something happening in Pennsylvania that may be more important than the election. The school district that was home to Victim 1 in the Jerry Sandusky case apparently doesn't get that its administrators violated every standard of decency at best and broke the law at worst. So it looks like they need a gentle push. Help me give them one.
If you'll remember, back in 2008 Aaron Fisher, then a freshman at Central Mountain High School near Lock Haven, revealed Sandusky had been molesting him since he was 12. He's recently written a book about his ordeal, Silent No More, with his mother, Dawn Daniels and their psychologist, Mike Gillum. You can buy it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Google. They reveal that Central Mountain administrators handled this in just about the worst way possible. When Daniels demanded that principal Karen Probst call the police, Probst instead told them to go home and think about the possible repercussions. They only called Children and Youth Services when it was apparent Aaron and Daniels were going there on their own. Aaron also reveals that when Sandusky realized Aaron was trying to pull away from him, Sandusky convinced vice principal and head football coach Steve Turchetta to pull Aaron out of class. Neither he nor Probst made any inquiries about it--even though, according to Huffington Post, Sandusky even took Aaron off campus. According to a 20/20 interview with Aaron, Turchetta admitted that he continued to let Sandusky take Aaron and other boys out of class even after he got suspicious of Sandusky's motives.
Think it could get worse than that? Well, believe it or not, it does. The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News' Sara Ganim, who broke the story of the Sandusky scandal last year and has been with it ever since, recently took a trip to Lock Haven, where Daniels told her that school officials should have reported Sandusky two days before Aaron finally told them what was happening--and didn't.
It’s been a year since Sandusky’s arrest and a year since Dawn Daniels first said publicly that she felt discouraged by the response from the school.Daniels also said that within days of Sandusky being banned from campus--on orders from CYS--several parents and students accused them of making false accusations against Sandusky in hopes of wringing money out of him. There is no way, legally or ethically, that their identities should have been leaked at that time. Three years later, after the scandal broke out in full, Aaron was bullied by several students who held him responsible for getting Joe Paterno fired. Daniels told HuffPo that when Probst didn't seem to understand how serious this was, she had no choice but to pull Aaron out of school.
She says her phone records show that she called Central Mountain High School on Nov. 18 to say she had become suspicious of Sandusky’s relationship with her son. She told them she checked him for bruises but found none. Aaron, a freshman, had complained that Sandusky was taking him from class.
But Daniels says two days passed before Principal Karen Probst called Fisher to the office to talk to him. That’s when Aaron said for the first time out loud that he had been touched by Sandusky. Attempts to reach Probst for this story were unsuccessful.
Earlier this week, Daniels tried to make her case to the board of the Keystone Central School District. Central Mountain is one of two high schools in the district. According to the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, Daniels dropped a potential bombshell--apparently school officials have a habit of mishandling allegations of abuse.
"My son was Victim 1 ... He suffered terrible bullying at Central Mountain High School, so much so that I had to move him in his senior year," Daniels said.The school district's board's position is that everything was handled appropriately. Let's see what we've got here. You've got a principal and assistant principal who basically let someone off the street take a student out of class--and even take him off campus--without even bothering to get parental permission. And the assistant principal has admitted under oath that had his doubts about Sandusky, but made no further inquiries. Somehow, Aaron and his mother's identities got leaked, opening the door for them to be harassed. And the school failed to protect Aaron after the scandal broke out, forcing Daniels to take him out of school. And they call this appropriate?
She also noted that her other children have faced abusive situations in the school system after the allegations came to light and her son was identified as one of the victims of Sandusky's evil.
"I've heard about kids being turned away" after reporting such abuse, she said. "I'm asking for a thorough investigation ... I have proof that (the mandated reporting law) was not done in a timely fashion ... I feel as a community, everything would have been fine if the people handling our children were there to keep them safe."
Don't count on county officials doing anything about it either. Ganim spoke with Clinton County Commission chairman Pete Smeltz, whose line on this is basically "So what?"
Smetlz, after being pressed for 10 minutes about his opinion of what happened inside the walls of Central Mountain, said he simply wants to stay out of it.Excuse me? You have a school district that appears to be unwilling to take the most basic steps to keep children safe, and as an elected official, you're not willing to do anything? You, sir, are a disgrace.
“Yes, yes. That’s what I’ve been trying to say for the last 10 minutes,” Smeltz said.
“Do I have an opinion? Yes,” he said. “Am I going to express it publicly? No. As a commissioner, I don’t have an opinion on that. Essentially, no comment.”
That’s the attitude that seemingly led to so many missed opportunities to catch Sandusky over the last 20 years.
“If [the school] chose to analyze themselves, their policies, decisions, behavior, that would be appropriate,” he said. “But for me to say they should — I’m not going to do that.”
I had the chance to talk on Facebook with Daniels and her friend Judy Fox, who helped organize a rally to support Aaron last weekend. Fox told me that while a lot of people in the area are angry at what has happened, they're afraid to speak out because they're afraid the school district will retaliate against them somehow. Indeed, according to The Patriot-News, at least one teacher wanted to attend the rally, but was afraid of retaliatory action. And several residents think that they have no business speaking out against the district.
It was through Fox that I got in touch with Daniels. We finally got a chance to talk on Saturday, and she told me that before calling Aaron into the office, Probst told her that while she was going to report it, she thought Aaron was making it up. Later on, her special-needs daughter was beaten up at school. When Daniels reported it, school officials tried to turn around and pin her as an unfit parent--even threatening to have her daughter taken from her. Eventually, Daniels was forced to place the girl in a charter school, where she's doing better than okay.
Daniels told me another shocker as well--county officials are apparently trying to push out Gillum. He's the only psychologist in the county, and has been working with CYS as a contractor for several years. From what Daniels is telling me, county officials are making noises about possibly not renewing his contract. They tried to pressure him not to speak out against the way the school and then-Attorney General Tom Corbett handled (or more accurately, mishandled) this, and then didn't like that he co-authored Silent No More. I know that this is the so-called Republican T we're talking about, but even with that to consider, this is outrageous. You'd think the county would want to give him a medal for helping put Sandusky away.
The last time I was this outraged was this time last year, when I learned that then-Penn State president Graham Spanier had the gall to express his support for then-athletic director Tim Curley and then-vice president Gary Schultz after they were indicted for lying to the grand jury about how they handled the 2001 shower incident. It took a national outcry for the Penn State board of trustees to push Spanier out, and it looks like it's going to take another one to get the Keystone Central School District to get its head out of its ass. Sign this petition calling for a full investigation.