Joe Paterno is alleged to have known about Jerry Sandusky’s crimes as early as 1976. His family is asking for evidence. (Pat Little/AP)

Joe Paterno’s family is lashing out over the coverage given to new allegations that the former Penn State football coach had been told as early as 1976 that Jerry Sandusky, his longtime assistant coach, had been molesting children.

The allegations, reported Thursday afternoon by PennLive.com, were found in court documents related to a legal dispute between Penn State and its main insurer over the $60 million in settlement money the school has paid to the victims of Sandusky’s abuse. The school says its insurer should cover the payments; the insurer — the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Insurance Co. — claims it does not owe Penn State anything for most of the Sandusky claims.

A court order related to the case says that one of the insurers has claimed that “in 1976, a child allegedly reported to PSU’s Head Coach Joseph Paterno that he (the child) was sexually molested by Sandusky.” The order also references instances in 1987 and 1988 in which Penn State assistants are alleged to have witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and children, plus a 1988 case that allegedly was reported to the school’s athletic director.

Scott Paterno, Joe Paterno’s son, says the allegations are exactly that: allegations that have not been proven as facts.

Paterno’s family issued a statement demanding that the full story be told. Paterno died in January 2012, slightly more than two months after the school fired him in the wake of the scandal. Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison in 2012 after a jury found him guilty on 45 counts of molestation involving 10 boys.

Because of a single sentence in a court record of an insurance case, Joe Paterno’s reputation has once again been smeared with an unsubstantiated, forty year old allegation. In response to this allegation and the subsequent media hype, the Paterno family is demanding a full public review of the facts.

From day one, Joe Paterno and his family have called for an objective and total pursuit of the truth with a full respect for due process. In 2011 and 2012 Joe Paterno was subjected to an unprecedented rush to justice by Louis Freeh and the NCAA. Time has proven that the Freeh report was deeply flawed and the unprecedented punitive actions of the NCAA were unjustified. Over the past four and a half years, numerous allegations that were taken as fact when they were initially communicated have been proven false. It is in this context that the latest claim should be viewed.

The reckless, all-out rush to accept accusations as legitimate without a full fair review of the facts, cannot be allowed to happen again. Fighting shadows and rumors on issues that are this significant is a disservice to everyone who cares about the truth. We do not fear the truth, we embrace it. And we will not allow a repeat of what happened before. We challenge anyone with evidence of misconduct to come forward and present their allegations in a process that allows a full, fair review of the evidence. We will stand by the facts, but we will never accept veiled accusations presented in a context where they cannot be objectively reviewed and analyzed.

If anything has been learned from the Sandusky tragedy it should be that rushed investigations do incredible harm. For once, a fair process should come before conclusions are reached.

Sports Illustrated sports-law expert Brian McCann wrote Thursday that it’s unlikely the new claims ever will be anything more than allegations. For one, the claims were made in depositions that are sealed by a court order. For another, the victim who allegedly made the claim to Paterno in 1976 apparently reached a confidential settlement agreement with Penn State that almost certainly would forbid him from discussing details of the matter.