Keeping Kids Safe   1 comment

I am really bothered by the Penn State scandal.

Paterno was fired by the Penn State Board of Trustees in 2011, and died soon thereafter

Joe Paterno had won more football games than any coach in history.  His football players loved him.  He was revered by students and alumni alike:  everyone loved “Joe Pa.”  As a bonus, he was a key fundraiser for the University.

And, in 20-20 hindsight, he made one of the worst hiring decisions ever when he hired an assistant coach named Jerry Sandusky.

The protection of our children is of paramount importance to all parents, of course.  How a predator got loose on the Penn State campus is something of a mystery – and it is that mystery that leaves me very conflicted about the whole affair.

Let’s start with established fact:

  • Sandusky was a coach at Penn State, 1969 – 1999.
  • He founded a charity, Second Mile, in 1977.  His work for that charity won many awards and recognitions.  Celebrities that served on the charity’s honorary board include Ex-Philadelphia Eagles head coach Dick Vermeil, current Eagles coach Andy Reid, actor Mark Wahlberg, Arnold Palmer and Franco Harris, among others.
  • Sandusky wrote books about how to coach linebackers.  He won awards as Assistant Coach of the Year for 1986 and 1999 while at Penn State.
  • He was investigated in 1998 by local police after being accused by a mother that he molested her son.  No charges were filed after the DA declined the case, and Sandusky retired from Penn State the next year … apparently, with a sweetheart of a retirement package.  (Does this smell?  You bet.  But when a DA declines a case, that indicates they don’t think they can convict the alleged perpetrator in court.  Innocent until proven guilty – even when it smells.)
  • In 2011 however, a grand jury indicted Sandusky for multiple acts that happened both during and after the time he was an employee of Penn State.  The grand jury initially identified eight boys that had been singled out for sexual advances or sexual assaults by Sandusky, taking place from 1994 through 2009.

    Jerry Sandusky is expected to receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole

  • Sandusky was found guilty by a jury of his peers, and was convicted of 45 counts of sexual crimes against children.
  • He was convicted of molesting 10 victims, all of whom he met through the charity.  Some of the molestations happened at Penn State.
  • He will be sentenced for those crimes on October 9, 2012.

Understand I’m accepting as fact the finding of the jury.  That finding can be appealed and reversed, of course … but a jury of his peers unanimously found Sandusky guilty.  That’s good enough for the judge that will sentence him, and it’s absolutely good enough for me.  It is now established, legal fact.

Louis Freeh served as the 5th Director of the FBI, 1993 – 2001

However, very little else of this case is established as fact.  Freeh Report?  Not fact.  It’s a trained prosecutor’s opinion.  It MAY be true … or parts of it may be true.  Today, I’m not willing to say it is fact – even though the current Board of Regents of Pennsylvania State University hired Freeh, paid for the report, and then committed the university to pay $60,000,000 as a settlement with the NCAA.  The NCAA, you know, that is not a judicial body, and also did not prove these allegations to a moral certainty to a jury of citizens.  Not.  Fact.

And the University settlement just seems outrageous to me.

This whole affair is a tragedy, a very human tragedy.  Sandusky abused many young men, and should be punished severely for what he did.

Any of the members of the Penn State staff that knowingly enabled Sandusky to continue his abuse should also be punished when their actions or inactions rose to the level of criminal behavior.  They should have their day in court.

What I’m not willing to do is to say that everyone should be punished simply because they were there.  If they didn’t know, then they didn’t know.  That’s not necessarily a crime.

A 6′-11″ statue of Paterno located near the football stadium was ordered removed by the Board of Regents in 2012.

Perhaps Joe Pa should have known; he was in charge of the football program.  That means he’s responsible for his employees – including Sandusky up until 1999.  After that, Paterno was still responsible for the program, and when Sandusky used the Penn State facilities and his special access as an emeritus assistant coach, then I would hope that someone, somewhere would notice and stop inappropriate activities taking place.  That noticing did happen in 2002, apparently, but nothing was done to end the ongoing tragedy.

Mike McQueary, a Penn State Assistant Coach, witnessed a Sandusky molestation in 2002, but did nothing to stop the act in progress. He reported it to Paterno and others, but nothing was done to punish or even end Sandusky’s use of Penn State facilities after the incident.

The Freeh Report did talk about that incident, and placed blame for it.  The Report may have had it right, but I’ll still insist the Freeh Report is not established fact.  It’s a prosecutor’s re-creation of what they think happened, based on available evidence.  Tragic, yes.  Is Sandusky a criminal?  Yes.  Who else is convicted of an illegal act?  As of today, no one.

So many people were in such a hurry to “convict” everyone associated with this mess.  Many people were fooled by Sandusky.  Every parent that let their children go out alone with Sandusky will have to live with that very bad decision.

Anything that happens to a sports program pales next to that real human suffering.  However, life must go on, and there’s no reason the football games shouldn’t go on as well. Remember, the football program itself was not at fault here.  The mystique of the program was mis-appropriated by Sandusky, and he acted illegally while an employee of Penn State.  The football team, however, did nothing wrong — but punishment was given there as well.  Thanks to the NCAA sanctions, every Penn State player on this and the next 3 years’ football teams have less opportunity and will have less success because of these events.

I struggle to find the necessity of punishing 18- and 19-year old young men that just want to play football for Penn State.  These new high school graduates had nothing to do with Penn State when these events occurred.  But, the NCAA decreed punishment to be necessary, and it will be done.

My bottom line:  this entire tragedy was preventable.  I have been trained by two youth organizations to train their adult volunteers on methods to identify and prevent child abuse.

Both Penn State and Second Mile made a key mistake:  they let Sandusky use their good names and their award-winning organizations to get alone with his victims.  If anyone – anyone – would have insisted that Sandusky not be allowed to be alone with these young boys, then the abuses would not have happened.

Parents, it is simple.  Don’t let your children be alone with adult males that you do not trust with your life.  Adult males, do not let children that are not in your immediate family be alone with you under any circumstances.  That way, children are protected from being singled out for abuse, and men are protected from false accusations.

That simple precaution of two adults always being with minor children that are placed in their charge was not followed.  Many, many people must be ashamed of that.

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