The news from Maxwell was disturbing.
The Nebraska State Patrol has cited three educators there for misdemeanor failure to report child abuse. The trio includes the district superintendent, the high school principal and the wrestling coach.
It gets worse. A State Patrol affidavit said the three knew about but failed to report that two high school wrestlers held down a teammate while another sexually assaulted him at a wrestling camp in Kearney in the summer of 2011. The affidavit also said the young man had been groped on a school bus.
And worse. As reported in The World-Herald, the alleged victim’s coach said, “What happens in wrestling, stays in wrestling.” (The three school officials believe they followed school policy and Nebraska law, according to a statement from their lawyer.)
According to the superintendent, the three still work for the Maxwell schools and the district is a “safe environment (for) all students and employees. They have been and they continue to be.”
Well, apparently not, according to one young man and the State Patrol, which continues its investigation after the “discovery of several more potential sexual assault victims.”
Even though more charges may be in the offing, we would do well to remember these are only accusations.
Still, the charges were based on enough evidence for the State Patrol to act, including the execution of a search warrant for the Maxwell Public School building to dig through records.
And even though the citations were misdemeanors, surely most people understand the seriousness of the failure to report.
In a post-Penn State/Sandusky universe, how could we not?
While the story and charges are sorted out in Maxwell, the headline reminds us how the horrific changes the world. Penn State/Sandusky qualifies.
None of which means Maxwell’s situation is comparable to the events that led to an indelible stain on one of the nation’s major universities and a near dismantling of its storied football program.
If Joe Paterno’s dismissal and the attendant aftermath of Jerry Sandusky’s reign of repugnance mean one kid gets the attention he or she needs or another is spared the distemper of abuse, then it’s worth it.
Perhaps many of you did, too, but when I saw a story about three educators being ticketed for not reporting a case of abuse or neglect, my mind moved to Penn State.
That may be neither fair nor accurate, but there it is.
We also have skills at riding the pendulum to the other side, too, and surely there is more to the Maxwell story. Nothing in the news reports of the State Patrol’s affidavit, however, appears to be a case of overreacting.
Nevertheless, an ongoing investigation is just that: ongoing. The difference now is that the entire state and beyond are watching.
We also might think about the murky world of hazing, a possible flash point for the Maxwell situation. The past few decades are strewn with terrifying examples of “traditions” gone haywire, resulting in humiliation, injury and death.
At the risk of sounding like a joy killer, the math is disheartening. According to a study from HazingPrevention.org, 1.5 million high school students report being hazed each year. Alcohol, degradation, isolation, sleep deprivation and sexual acts are favorites for hazers.
The vast majority of students who are hazed never report it. When asked why, nearly two in five said because there was “no one to tell.”
That might explain the 40 percent of athletes who said the coaches or advisers were aware of the hazing and another 22 percent who said a coach participated.
Disturbing. Disheartening. Bad. Worse.
We may eventually know the entire Maxwell story. I hope it’s in a way that protects those who need it: obviously, the victims of any abuse, plus anyone who may possibly be a victim of inaccuracy.
Either way, it’s nasty business.
And, rightly, we’re as tuned to it as we’ve ever been.