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Penn State sex abuse scandal: Students protect Joe Paterno statue after vandal threat

David TrifunovGlobalPost.com

The Joe Paterno statue was under close watch overnight after a small group of students vowed to protect it from vandals.

Penn State is debating removing the Beaver Stadium tribute to its former football coach because of his role in the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault scandal.

On Tuesday, an airplane flew over the campus with the message, “Take the statue down or we will.”

Mike Elliott and Kevin Berkon showed up at JoPa’s statue late Tuesday night in response, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“We talked about going up to the statue, and once we got up to the statue, we were like, ‘Well, we’re going to protect it,’” Berkon told the LA Times.

About 10 students joined the seniors, who pitched a tent and unfurled a banner of their own that said, “Protect the Paterno statue.”

The remained there until early Wednesday morning.

“We’ll stay up all night and we'll do what we have to do,” Elliott told the LA Times.

The university said it’s still debating the statue’s fate.

Exactly when and how much Paterno, who died in January at age 85 from cancer, knew about his assistant coach’s assaults is under much debate.

A recent investigation declared he and other high ranking school officials knew of Sandusky’s history, but didn’t report it to police.

Paterno’s legacy is already tarnished.

His alma mater, Brown, has already removed some references to Paterno around campus, The New York Times said.

“In light of the outcome of the Sandusky trial and the findings of the Freeh Report, the university has been reviewing these tributes to take appropriate action,” a Brown release said.

Who was behind the banner is still unknown.

The pilot refused comment when approached by The Centre Daily Times.

James Miller of Air America Aerial Ads towed the message over Penn State for about two hours.

“I’m in advertising,” Miller told the Daily Times. “I believe in freedom of speech.”