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 proven — 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 announced this week against four Steubenville 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 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 young Mays before his conviction, that his coach would “take care of it.”
Among those indicted were a volunteer football coach whose house was the scene of the party in August, 2012. He is accused of allowing underage drinking, obstructing official business, and committing other misdemeanors.
Also indicted were an assistant wrestling and strength coach who is a special-education teacher at the local high school, and the principal of a Steubenville elementary school. Both are accused of failing to report child abuse or neglect.
The most serious charges are against Steubenville schools 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 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 further evidence that elected officials need to do more to insulate children from harm, and to get tough on adults who fail to protect them.