by Kimberly Hefling
WASHINGTON (AP)—Education Secretary Arne Duncan said allegations of sexual abuse involving Penn State University are heartbreaking and make him “extraordinarily angry.”
If the allegations are proven true, it’s “mind boggling” that it was allowed to go on for so long, Duncan told The Associated Press in an interview on Monday. He said educators have an “absolute moral, ethical and legal responsibility” to protect kids.
“If a blind eye was turned towards it, or if the allegations were somewhat buried or not taken seriously, well, you’re actually perpetuating the problem,” Duncan said. “You’re giving the abuser more opportunities to hurt more kids. I just can’t fathom that.”
Duncan said the Education Department has been working on efforts to prevent sexual violence on college campuses, but it’s too early to know if it would be involved at Penn State in any way.
Two high-ranking university administrators have stepped down after facing charges that they lied to a grand jury investigating former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and failed to properly report suspected child abuse. Sandusky was arrested on charges that he preyed on boys he met through a charity. All three have maintained they are innocent.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno said he was shocked, saddened and as surprised as everyone else to learn that his longtime assistant was charged with sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period, including four years when Sandusky still was a member of the Nittany Lions’ staff.
“If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families. They are in our prayers,” Paterno said in a statement issued Sunday night by his son, Scott.
Paterno, a Hall of Famer and the winningest coach in Division I history, is not implicated in the case.
“Joe Paterno was a witness who cooperated and testified before the grand jury,” said Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office. “He’s not a suspect.”