There is never a good time to be dragged into a child sex abuse scandal, but the Citadel’s timing could not be worse. Dealing with the fallout from Louis “Skip” Reville’s recent arrest would have been difficult enough.

Local law enforcement agencies have charged ReVille with multiple counts of improper sexual contact with juvenile males. ReVille has worked in church and school athletic programs around the Lowcountry for more than a decade. From 2000 to 2004, he worked as a counselor at a since-shutdown Citadel summer camp. Now we have learned that in 2007 a former Citadel camper complained to school administrators that ReVille had shown him pornography and aggressively urged him to join ReVille in a masturbation session in the summer of 2002.

Worse yet, the Citadel — which is proud of its honor code, its character-building environment, its intolerance of dishonest and dishonorable behavior — did not go to the police with the information. No, but the military college did dispatch its chief attorney to Dallas, where he took a 160-page statement from the former camper. The young accuser, whose identity remains confidential, was apparently not trying to make a civil or criminal case of the matter. As the P&C reported, the former camper told the attorney he had only one purpose in bringing his complaint: “Most of all, the thing I want most is just to make sure he doesn’t have a chance to do this to anyone else.”

As we now know, his simple request was ignored. ReVille has been charged with nine counts. The attorney’s report apparently went into a file cabinet somewhere and was forgotten — until two weeks ago. How many people in the Citadel administration knew of the report? Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa, president of the Citadel, said he was aware of it, but he evidently never read it. Hmm.

Unfortunately for the Citadel, four news cycles ahead and 750 miles away in College Park, Pa., a very similar scenario was playing out at Penn State University. As the world now knows, former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been charged with multiple counts of sex abuse against young boys. And it had all apparently been going on for years.

In this case, at least two university employees observed the behavior and reported it to superiors. But what did the superiors do about it? Well, they didn’t go to the authorities as they should have. Two weeks ago, the story broke and this proud old public university was plunged into an epic scandal. But the PSU board of trustees knew their responsibility. They acted swiftly, firing the athletic director, a university vice president, the president, and — to the amazement of all the civilized world — Penn State legend and icon Joe Paterno, the winningest football coach in college history, two days before what was to be his last home game.

The message could not be clearer, and if Penn State’s righteous action is to be considered the standard for dealing with child sex abuse, then John Rosa and other Citadel officers have much to fear.

At moments like these, we can expect the pompous and the pontifical to cry out against pedophiles. Indeed, it is easy to denounce those monsters who haunt every parent’s dreams. But where are these heroes, where are these guardians of virtue and innocence in the day-to-day governance of our state, in day-to-day advocacy and policy-making?

Numbers don’t lie and the numbers from the annual Kids Count survey show that South Carolina is the sixth-worst state in the nation to be a child. We rank fifth in child poverty. We are next to last in high school graduation rates. Perhaps one reason for this is that, at $10,051, we have the 19th lowest level of expenditure per student in our public schools. We are the fifth-highest in infant mortality, fourth-highest in premature births, and the 11th-highest in births to teenage mothers.

The GOP’s love affair with the fetus is legendary, as is the fact that its passion instantly cools when the fetus emerges from the womb to become a living, breathing child. Children, unlike fetuses, require services and resources that GOPers are loath to provide — things like education, healthcare, and nutrition. The Republican passion for these unfortunates begins to warm once more as they approach voting age.

Budgets are about choices, about the things we value. South Carolina’s budgets and choices suggest that we do not care about our children. We do not care about their health or safety or education. It’s much easier to lock up a pedophile and say we’ve done all we should for our children.