If an Ohio grand jury is correct, the attack by two football players on a 16-year-old girl was just the beginning of a series of criminal acts that rocked the city of Steubenville.
And as so often is the scandalous truth, any cover-up — if proved — could be even worse than the horrendous crime of rape.
Steubenville High School athletes Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond already have been convicted of sexually assaulting the victim after a drinking party in 2012. One of the many disturbing elements of the attack was that some events were documented by party-goers on their cell phones, and the vile displays were shared on social media.
The reprehensible behavior of the young people is inexcusable, yet new indictments issued last Friday against four school officials allege that adults in positions of responsibility shirked their moral and legal duties as well. That may not be as traumatic for the victim, but it may well be more damning.
From the beginning, there were suggestions — the most vocal made by the protest group Anonymous — that school officials had been too concerned with protecting the stars of the “Big Red” football team. The latest criminal charges give credence to the theory, expressed by Mays before his conviction, that his coach would “take care of it.”
Among those indicted by the special grand jury were Matt Belardine, a volunteer football coach whose house was the scene of the Aug. 11, 2012, party, and Seth Fluharty, an assistant wrestling and strength coach who also is a special education teacher at the high school. Mr. Belardine is accused of allowing underage drinking, obstructing official business and other misdemeanor offenses. Mr. Fluharty and Lynnett Gorman, principal of West Elementary School in Steubenville, are accused of failing to report child abuse or neglect.
The most serious charges are against superintendent Michael McVey; they include two felonies, obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence.
The grand jury’s allegations are not proof of wrongdoing, but they are certainly troubling. They raise the question of whether anyone in Steubenville was listening to the lessons about reporting abuse that supposedly were taught by the egregious case of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
The Steubenville case provides more evidence that Pennsylvania legislators should enhance the Keystone State’s laws so they better insulate children and are tougher on adults who fail to protect them.