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Did Penn State's Sandusky Scandal Create a Duty to Report?

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on November 07, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Two Penn State administrators face charges in connection with the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The former assistant coach -- for many years head coach Joe Paterno's right-hand-man -- is charged with sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years.

At least one of the alleged incidents took place in a Penn State locker room in 2002. A staffer reported it to Joe Paterno, who told athletic director Tim Curley -- but Curley did not tell authorities.

Now Curley and Penn State's vice president for business Gary Schultz are charged with lying about the alleged crime and failing to report it. Paterno has not been charged.

But the duty to report Sandusky's alleged sexual abuse of boys may not apply in this case, Schultz's attorney Thomas J. Farrell told The Wall Street Journal.

At issue is the wording of Pennsylvania's reporting law. It requires staff members of public institutions to "immediately notify" higher-ups when they suspect "that a child coming before them in their professional or official capacity is a victim of child abuse." Higher-ups are then supposed to tell authorities.

But Farrell argues the law may not apply to Curley or Schultz, because their official capacities at Penn State did not involve direct contact with children.

Rather, Jerry Sandusky seems to have brought the alleged victim to the Penn State campus on his own -- as part of the charity he founded for troubled youth, The Second Mile.

If it was similar to a child from "Big Brothers/Big Sisters" visiting campus, that could mean Curley and Schultz are off the hook for failure to report. A Pennsylvania law professor also notes that the statute of limitations for that specific crime is two years.

Even if those charges are eventually dropped, Curley and Schultz still face charges of perjury in Penn State's Sandusky scandal. Those charges could get them up to a year in jail under sentencing guidelines. They're set to appear in court again Nov. 17.

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