Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, center,...

Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, center, leaves the Centre County Courthouse in custody with Centre County Sheriff Denny Nau, left, after being found guilty of multiple charges of child sexual abuse in Bellefonte, Pa. (June 22, 2012) Credit: AP

The child-abuse conviction of Jerry Sandusky sends a strong message to abusers and the institutions that harbor them that the sexual molestation of children won't be tolerated.

Now all eyes turn to Penn State, where Sandusky is a former football defensive coordinator, and its institutional response.

In November, the university fired president Graham Spanier as well as Sandusky's former boss, the coaching legend Joe Paterno, who died in January.

Two other former university officials were ousted and charged with perjury and failing to report possible child abuse. In addition, Penn State has signaled its interest in quickly settling lawsuits arising from Sandusky's appalling crimes.

The university has also hired former FBI director Louis Freeh to investigate its actions, trained nearly 2,000 employees to recognize and report suspected child abuse, and adopted a new policy clarifying employee responsibilities on this front.

Sandusky was convicted of sexually assaulting 10 boys. According to prosecutors, he also used the Second Mile charity he founded, which grew into one of Pennsylvania's biggest providers of youth social services, to locate boys for abuse.

During Sandusky's long years of predation, university officials could have stopped him. Police investigated him for abuse as early as 1998 but, according to grand jury testimony, the inquiry ended after campus police asked that it be closed. The university's former athletic director and former official in charge of campus police, meanwhile, are charged with failing to act on a 2001 allegation.

Underlying the lack of action by Penn State officials is a squeamishness about homosexuality that bred silence, which amounts to complicity. It's unlikely that anyone would have knowingly let this go on had Sandusky been raping 10-year-old girls. The attitudes that allowed these terrible things to happen to boys need to be confronted and rooted out.

The Sandusky verdict came on the same day Monsignor William Lynn was found guilty in Philadelphia of child-endangerment for not doing enough to keep child-abusing priests away from kids. It was the first conviction of a U.S. church official for covering up sexual abuse allegations.

Both cases show that when individuals take sexual advantage of kids, others have an obligation to act -- and institutions that are lax on abuse face trouble. Officials of the elite Horace Mann School in Riverdale have learned as much lately from allegations there.

The message is clear: no one, and no organization, can tolerate child abuse.

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