As the Freeh report goes public today, we urge residents and visitors to accept whatever news the investigation brings in a mature and professional manner — upsetting though it may be.
The group led by former FBI director Louis Freeh didn’t do the State College region any favors by scheduling the release of the findings during the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.
The arts festival draws thousands of Penn State alumni and current students back to the region, and many of those folks will spend their evenings in downtown bars or fraternity houses or at local parties.
We hope emotions will be held in check during the hours and days after the report is released.
Such a response would be a sign that our community understands the serious nature of the charges — the sexual abuse of children — that brought turmoil into our midst and led Penn State to have the report commissioned.
The wrong response would add to the outside world’s misperception that our community is a dark, dangerous place.
State College police say they are prepared but don’t expect trouble this weekend.
Still, we think a word of caution is in order considering the potentially volatile mix of extreme emotions and alcohol over-consumption.
We expect the Freeh report to bring troubling, perhaps shocking, news that will involve Penn State as an institution and some of its iconic figures, perhaps including legendary football coach Joe Paterno.
State College Police Chief Tom King said his department will be out in full force throughout Arts Fest, as always. And borough officers will have the usual complement of colleagues from the state police and neighboring municipal units.
King said the Freeh report’s scheduled release early today is better timed than a statement late in the day or in the evening. We agree.
Last November, the late-night announcement that Paterno and university President Graham Spanier had been removed from their jobs sparked an angry reaction downtown.
Students poured from the bars and filled the streets. A news van was overturned, some in the crowd were pepper-sprayed and many people faced charges related to that disturbance.
And we have not forgotten a downtown riot during the 1998 arts festival.
Early on the Sunday morning of that weekend, more than 1,500 people filled the area along Beaver Avenue — lighting fires, knocking down signs and lampposts and damaging vehicles and buildings.
Sixteen police officers were injured and 20 people were arrested in the melee that began just after the bars let out.
The damage estimate topped $120,000.
In the aftermath, State College Police Lt. Thomas Hart said, “In my 15 years on the force, this was the scariest moment in my life.”
There have been a handful of disturbances since, but thankfully none at the level of that 1998 debacle.
Since then, security has been high for all major events in town — including night football games and Arts Fest.
That is an unfortunate but necessary precaution — as we were reminded last November.
The Centre County/Penn State community has endured many moments of gut-wrenching news in recent months, including Paterno’s death in January and the conviction of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky on 45 counts of child sexual abuse last month.
Still, the Freeh report could spark strong feelings. People may be tempted to react with violence.
We expect a peaceful, subdued reaction, one that reflects the very real pain the Sandusky scandal has brought — especially for his child victims.
An important lesson of the Sandusky conviction and fallout is this: Proper priorities lead to appropriate actions.
We have faith that the message will ring true beginning today and that people will respond with positive behavior as the findings of the Freeh report ripple across our region.