I’m not going to rehash the Penn State sexual abuse saga here.
For one thing, I have no desire to do so. Over the past 48 hours, I have read some great articles criticizing all those who refused to look into the allegations against Jerry Sandusky and standing up for those children who were victimized by him. I don’t have anything to add to what has already been written on the subject.
For another, I’m not even sure I could. I can’t remember the last time a story made me this sick to my stomach. I’ve had to lessen my exposure to the news coverage as the story has dragged on because I couldn’t stand to read or hear anymore about what Sandusky is accused of doing. It’s just disgusting.
As awful as the story is, however, I think there are some important things that we as parents and youth workers need to pay attention to, especially as the story pertains to Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno.
Paterno is one of the most legendary and revered figures in college football history, holding his position at Penn State for an astounding 45 years. Even when the team wasn’t having much success on the field and some were calling for him to be fired, no one ever seemed to question the fact that he was a good, moral man who at the very least instilled discipline and values into the young men he coached.
However, all of that went out the window this weekend when the story broke that a graduate assistant had alerted Paterno to Sandusky’s behavior a decade ago. Rather than confront his former employee (and reported good friend) or call the police, Paterno chose to pass the information on to another university official and wash his hands of it, content that, “I did what I was supposed to.”
Paterno has understandably (and rightfully) come under fire for fulfilling the minimal legal requirement without questioning what his greater moral responsibility was, especially since innocent children paid for his failure to do so. Whether this costs him his job or not is yet to be seen (Update, 11/9/11: Paterno has been fired.), but it begs an interesting question for us:
What can we do as parents and youth workers to ensure the safety of children entrusted to our care? How can we protect against passing the buck of responsibility at the cost of a child’s innocence?
Here are a five things I think we can need to do to try and avoid the mistakes Paterno and other Penn State officials made: Continue reading Learning from Joe Paterno