A Penn State professor is accused of abuse, top staffers allegedly ignored it

A second allegation of horrific child sex abuse at Penn State has been made, along with accusations that the university’s top staff ignored and concealed the crimes.

In a lengthy New York Times article today, Paul McLaughlin of Phoenix, AZ says that between 1977 and 1981, he was repeatedly molested by John Neisworth, a Penn State education professor. (Neisworth was charged with child sex crimes in 2005 in Maryland, but ultimately, those charges were dropped when some evidence was deemed inadmissible).

Mr. McLaughlin also says that he tried, several times to no avail, to get university administrators to safeguard kids from Neisworth. Specifically, Mr. McLaughlin says former university president Graham Spanier shunned him and refused McLaughlin’s offer to send a tape recording in which Neisworth seems to admit his child sex crimes.

If this is true, it’s a stunningly reckless and callous moved by Spanier for which he, and the entire Penn State administration should feel ashamed.

Our hearts ache for the abuse that Mr. McLaughlin suffered, both at the hands of Neisworth and the Penn State officials who rebuffed him and let his abuser keep teaching. We hope that the FBI will look into these allegations along with its investigation of Sandusky and others.

We applaud Mr. McLaughlin’s courage in speaking up, both years ago and now. We especially applaud his going to law enforcement and working hard to make sure that other kids would be protected from Neisworth.

Spanier and other current and former top Penn State administrators should publicly address these serious and disturbing allegations. It’s time to push aside the defense lawyers and spin doctors and speak the truth, if ever the school is to be a safer place and if ever those betrayed are to heal.

A key lesson to learn here is this: professional achievement and personal integrity don’t always go hand in hand. One can accomplish a lot on the job yet still have deep private flaws, like lacking the courage and compassion to report suspected child sex crimes by a trusted colleague, supervisor or underling. If kids are to be safer, all of us must come to grips with the sad reality that the very adults who commit and conceal child sex crimes are often the most charming, charismatic and successful among us.

Finally, we call on every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes at Penn State or by any college staff to speak up. Keeping silent protects no one, except the wrongdoers. Stepping forward means that there’s at least a chance for healing, justice, and prevention. It’s hard, it’s frightening, and it’s uncertain. But it’s the right thing to do.

And doing nothing helps those who commit and conceal child sex crimes to continue to injure innocent kids.

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