Penn State University is still reeling from the child abuse scandal that has rocked its football program, with a snowball effect that ended the longest coaching tenure in college football and deposed a university president. Incredibly, a similarly disturbing scandal was unfolding among youth and high school sports coaches in the state of Indiana.
As reported by the Indianapolis Star, two adults were charged with not reporting sexual misconduct between a fellow youth swimming coach and a 14-year-old girl. In a lawsuit that cites a culture of pedophilia in youth swimming in the Indianapolis area, Amanda Juntenen Cox, who now serves as the head coach of the Tippecanoe (Ind.) McCutcheon High swimming team, and John Diercks, the former swimming coach at Lawrence (Ind.) North High, are being sued by the parents of an underaged victim of former Lawrence North assistant swimming coach Christopher Wheat.
Wheat was sentenced to eight years in prison and two years in community corrections in September of 2010 after pleading guilty to sexual misconduct with a minor (two counts) and child solicitation.
The new court case lists both Cox and Diercks as adults in authority figures who were made aware of Wheat's misconduct yet failed to report the coach to authorities. United States Swimming, Indiana Swimming and the Lawrence Township Schools were also cited in the lawsuit.
Cox's lawyer has pledged to fight back against the allegations, portraying Cox as one of the crucial figures in helping authorities get Wheat into custody.
"Amanda Cox will appropriately and vigorously defend the lawsuit that has just been filed against her," Kent Moore, Cox's lawyer, told the Star. "When she received information about the perpetrator's conduct, she contacted the appropriate authorities, reported all of the information she had, and was listed and available as a witness against the perpetrator in the criminal prosecution against this individual. She believes the ultimate outcome of the lawsuit as it pertains to her will show that she has committed no wrongdoing and has fully complied with all of her legal and moral obligations."
Meanwhile, Jonathan Little, lawyer of the victim, claims that Cox only went to the authorities after Wheat was arrested, and that the coach knew of a prior victim of the high school and middle school coach. He also claims that proof of that knowledge can be corroborated by a series of text messages sent between Cox and Wheat about the student in question.
Diercks has denied either hiring or re-hiring the former coach, but the lawyer for the victim claims otherwise.
"His statement is an outright lie," Little told the Star.
Whether the swimming coaches can avoid the fate of so many Penn State employees after former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested on charges related to sexual abuse of children remains to be seen, but if the lawyer of at least one victim is offering an accurate portrayal of events, their actions -- or lack of action -- could be equally morally repugnant.