Well, Penn State University had their second Saturday without legendary coach Joe Paterno leading the football team. After the initial student outrage over Paterno’s dismissal from the university, the focus has properly shifted from Paterno to those allegedly victimized by former Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
I will start this post by saying that in many ways the child protection system in the US is broken. Over the past 2 decades there have been cases here in Nevada of children returned to parents after proven abuse and children being removed from homes simply because they were being home-schooled. The system seems just as dysfunctional in State College, Pennsylvania. A mother reported alleged abuse of her son by Sandusky in the mid-1990s. At the time police listened in on a conversation between the mother and Sandusky, where he implied he had had inappropriate contact with the boy in the shower. But there was no further investigation at that time. A report on the Grand Jury indictment is a depressing list of a decade of abuse of vulnerable boys.
The Grand Jury indictment summarizes the 2002 Penn State connection as follows: Asst. Coach Mike McQueary, then a graduate student, witnessed inappropriate behavior between Sandusky and a young boy in the locker room shower. McQueary told his father and the two went to inform Coach Joe Paterno. Paterno took the information to Athletic Director Tim Curley. Curley spoke with McQueary, and then told Sandusky not to bring children from his at-risk children’s charity into the locker room.
Athletic Director Curley has asked for leave from the university to devote time to clearing his name concerning Grand Jury charges that he lied about Sandusky and failed to properly report child abuse. Coach Paterno, and Penn State President Graham Spanier were fired by the University Trustees on November 9. Why hasn’t Asst. Coach McQueary been fired? He was an eye witness and therefore most responsible to report what he had seen to the police. In some jurisdictions, someone who witnesses a crime, but does not report it to police, can be charged as an accessory. He had the same moral obligation to call the police as Curley, Paterno and Spanier. (Recently McQueary has contradicted his Grand Jury testimony and said he did talk with the police.)
Now young men in other states have come forward with claims of abuse at other colleges. (Why are so many minors on college campuses without a parent or college-age sibling? Many parents worry about sending their 18-year olds off to college, knowing the stereotypes of binge drinking and coed dorms. A few professors encourage and may even join students in poor behavior. Why would a parent allow their minor child to spend time on a college campus?)
Regardless of who does or does not keep his job, it will take years for Penn State University to clean up its reputation. It is a shame that the entire school must suffer for the inaction of a few men. Previous Penn State grads may face negative attitudes as well. Actions – or inactions – have consequences, and not just for those directly involved. Hopefully this situation will be a lesson that reaches far beyond State College.