Posts tagged ‘Paterno’

November 11, 2011

Tragic Lessons of the Penn State Fiasco

This is the most difficult blog post I’ve ever written.

The subject matter is truly horrific.

The story on which this post is based continues to change daily, literally. The story offers so much to comment on, that it’s difficult to know even what to focus on. Children have allegedly been sexually abused. Two nonprofit organizations will likely suffer. It’s a moral and public relations debacle that has led to rioting. It reveals grotesque failures of character. It is about a powerful institution that seems to have cared more about protecting itself than protecting children and, as a result, has eventually done itself great harm.

I’m writing about the child sex abuse scandal that has been exposed at Pennsylvania State University.

I’ve been following the story closely. I’m a Pennsylvanian and, therefore, I care about what happens at Penn State, our flagship public university. I’m also a member of the board of directors of the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, an organization that brings justice and healing to the victims of child sexual abuse. Protecting the innocent and defenseless are core values of mine.

Former Penn State Coach Joe Paterno

I learned of the story the way most people did. On November 5, 2011, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly and State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan announced the results of a grand jury investigation. Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State Football Defensive Coordinator, was charged with sexually abusing eight boys. Tim Curley, Penn State Director of Athletics, and Gary Schultz, Penn State Senior Vice President for Finance and Business, were charged with perjury and failing to report suspected child abuse. Four days later, the Penn State Board of Trustees fired Graham Spanier, President, and Joe Paterno, the legendary football head coach.

Mike McQueary was a graduate assistant in 2002 when he allegedly witnessed Sandusky sodomizing a 10 year old boy in the showers of a locker room on campus. While McQueary did not stop the alleged rape, while he did not call police, he did notify Paterno … the next day. McQueary is now the wide receivers coach at Penn State though his position may be under review.

Why didn’t McQueary rescue the child? Why didn’t McQueary call 9-1-1? Why did he wait until the following day to tell Paterno, his superior? Where was McQueary’s moral compass?

After receiving the news, why didn’t Paterno call 9-1-1? Instead, he reported the information to Curley, his supervisor. While Paterno may have fulfilled Pennsylvania’s legal requirements, what about his moral obligations? Even the coach himself admitted, “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.” Rich Hofman, of The Philadelphia Daily News, has asked what Paterno’s legacy will now be: “Is it: ‘He did the legal minimum.’ Or is it: ‘He told his supervisor.’”

Bill Phillips and the editors of Men’s Health wrote an interesting article that explores the psychological issues involved and what may have affected the behavior of McQueary and Paterno. However, I still have to say that I would have expected better, especially of Paterno.

In our country, one-in-four girls and one-in-six boys will be sexually abused before adulthood. We must act when we have suspicions. In Pennsylvania, it’s the law. It’s not up to us to investigate. But, it is up to us to give the professionals the chance to investigate. If you suspect child sex abuse and do little or nothing about it, you are part of the evil. We have a profound moral obligation to protect the innocent and defenseless in our society. Please do your part. You can learn more about what you can do at the National Children’s Advocacy Center website, at the National Children’s Alliance website, or by contacting your local child advocacy center.

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