Monday, October 19

Bruce Heim's Letter Provides Learning Opportunities

The breakdowns in PA's child protection system were lost in the sensational reporting about Penn State's role in the Sandusky scandal.  Bruce Heim's letter provides another opportunity to highlight them.

Ray Blehar

Bruce Heim's October 7th guest op-ed (Bruce Heim: Shedding Light on The Second Mile's Decision Making) provides us with a number of opportunities to learn about how the system broke down and enabled Sandusky to perpetrate crimes for over a decade.

The mistakes by the county agencies and  The Second Mile have garnered little attention, but had the correct steps been taken, children may have been spared from abuse. 

Heim:  "At the time [2001], The Second Mile had no knowledge of the 1998 incident, which was not reported to us."

By law, Centre County Office of Children and Youth Services (CYS) was required to notify The Second Mile within 24 hours of receiving the 1998 abuse allegations against Sandusky.  The purpose of the notification was to ensure that the charity put a plan of supervision in place to protect program participants while Sandusky was under investigation.  

That didn't happen.

According to the 1998 University Park police report, Sandusky continued to contact the two children who were subjects of the investigation.  Both children were participants in the charity's activities. In addition, according to court documents, Sandusky was accessing Victim 4 - another participant - during this period.

The law also states that in instances where the county agency has passed the responsibility for investigating to the regional office or the Department, as it did in 1998, it still maintains responsibility for the plan of supervision and other notifications.

About ten years later, similar failures occurred.

Charity did not put
approved plan in place
after the 2009 finding
Heim:  "Upon receipt of the 2008 report, it was immediately taken to the board of The Second Mile for action, which in turn banned Jerry from all kid-related activities."

In 2008, Clinton County CYS was the investigating agency and it also failed its oversight duties.  Clinton County CYS Director, Gerald Rosamilia, erred by assuming that because Sandusky was no longer accessing the subject (Aaron Fisher) that no plan of supervision was needed.  

As noted above, The Second Mile was required to develop a plan of supervision to ensure Sandusky did not have access to children.  However, the law also required the plan be approved by the county agency and kept on file until the closure of the investigation.

By the charity's own admission, it kept quiet about the abuse investigation in order to allow Sandusky to continue raising money.  It did not inform program participants or the public.  It is doubtful that such a plan would have been approved by Clinton County CYS or DPW.

According to court documents and trial testimony, two children were abused while Sandusky was under investigation in 2009.   Also, media reports revealed that Sandusky attended a banquet in March 2009 and attended TSM's Summer Challenge Camp in 2010

Similar failures, ten years apart by two different county agencies, reveals that child protection employees were not well versed in their responsibilities to keep children safe during investigations.  

The evidence also shows that The Second Mile did not comply with the law by failing to get its plan of supervision approved and that its plan was insufficient for protecting children.

Mr. Heim's statement that The Second Mile didn't have "some culpability" in the scandal and that contrary opinions are based "on conjecture," is based on ignorance.

And ignorance of the law is no excuse.


  1. "By law, Centre County Office of Children and Youth Services (CYS) was required to notify The Second Mile within 24 hours of receiving the 1998 abuse allegations against Sandusky. The purpose of the notification was to ensure that the charity put a plan of supervision in place to protect program participants while Sandusky was under investigation.

    That didn't happen."

    So, it appears as though CYS (or TSM - if they are possibly just lying about CYS contacting them) broke the law in 1998 or at least really, REALLY, REALLY screwed up big time.

    Its a good thing that Louis Freeh pointed this out in his report, because doing so would have effectively shifted the blame from Penn State to the State of Pennsylvania. OOPS. My bad...he did the exact opposite and tried to shift all the blame from 1998 on to Penn State. I wonder what motivation he had to do that, seeing how Freeh wasn't in constant contact with the OAG of Pennsylvania. OOPS. My bad again.

    1. Jeff,
      The Freeh Report's "bones" were the Sandusky grand jury presentment. It never even mentioned Centre County CYS with regard to the 1998 incident.

      The evidence indicates CYS wanted nothing to do with investigating Jerry. I suspect they were relieved when the calvary (Lauro) arrived from Harrisburg to make everything go away.

  2. Googling a bit about the 1998 incident - - "Lauro said he didn’t feel that was enough to substantiate a sexual-abuse complaint." previous to that - - "The New York Times has reached three of the principals involved in the investigation: the two men identified by prosecutors as the police officers who worked on the case, Schreffler and Ralph Ralston, and the investigator with the state welfare department, Gerald Lauro, who was charged with determining if a child had been harmed".

    1. FJ,
      More evidence has come forth, by virtue of Sandusky's appeal, that shows the evidence was there to "indicate" a finding of child abuse. Note that a child abuse finding is not evidence of a crime, but it is put in place to ensure that Sandusky can't have further contact with children.

      Lauro's assertion that he needed to substantiate a sexual-abuse complaint is therefore wrong. His job is to substantiate a child abuse complaint and ensure the safety of the child.


      According to a SC policeman with knowledge of the case, Schreffler believed that Lauro was untrustworthy and contradictory.

      And here's the proof....

      Above he said he made the decision not to substantiate a complaint, but in this interview he said the decision wasn't his.

      “I had no decision-making authority or power in any of these cases,” Lauro said, when contacted Saturday. “They are left up to the district attorney to decide. In all of the hundreds of cases that I ran, I never let anyone influence me.”

      Lauro is full of crap. The law is clear. DPW/CYS decides child abuse cases. They are not involved whatsoever in criminal determinations.

      That is the job of the police....

      ...and in 1998, PSU Detective Schreffler said he felt there was evidence of crimes, but that Gricar couldn't prosecute the case because of Lauro's decision.

      "At the very minimum, there was enough evidence for some charges, like corruption of minors," Mr. Schreffler said...

      Mr. Schreffler speculates that the district attorney declined to press charges because the state Department of Public Welfare didn't indicate a charge of abuse, which would have made the prosecution's case even more difficult.

      "It'd be a little hard for them to prosecute, when you have the state saying there wasn't any abuse."


      This article further showed that Lauro had no idea what his job was.

      "In that case, Jerry Lauro, the DPW investigator, said he would have put a safety plan in place if he felt it was necessary."

      The county agency - not DPW - is ALWAYS responsible for the plan of supervision, even when the case is transferred to the Department for investigation.


      In summary, Jerry Lauro was at best incompetent and, at worst, a ringer sent in by the state to ensure that Sandusky went free.