The Penn State Lesson

There’s a lesson to be learned from the events coming out of Happy Valley.

It is a simple lesson, one that should have been learned by all long ago.

It is a lesson, that if adhered to, could have left a beloved head coach’s 46-year head coaching career untarnished.

It is a lesson, that if adhered to, could have saved the career of a university president, who at the NCAA Presidential Retreat in August said, “We need to bring a higher level of integrity to the conduct of intercollegiate athletics.”

Most importantly though, it is a lesson, that if adhered to, could have protected innocent children and maintained their well-being.

It is a lesson of common sense.  It is a lesson of trusting your gut.  It is a lesson of recognizing right and standing up against wrong.

It is a lesson which recognizes that we, as society, must consistently and constantly stand up for the weakest members of our communities.

It is a lesson that, although Pennsylvania law dictates that only certain people have a legal obligation to report child abuse, we all have a moral responsibility to alert the authorities when we learn of abuse against a child.

The allegations against Jerry Sandusky are gruesome and heart-wrenching.  What the mainstream media alleges as “sexual assault” against young boys are really allegations of the most sensitive nature, involving lewd and disgusting actions allegedly being perpetrated against our society’s most innocent members.

They are allegations dating back to the early 1990s.

They are allegations which, to date, have been brought by nine young men.

They are allegations which were witnessed and corroborated by adults.

There was who the Grand Jury report calls “Victim 1.”  A high school wrestling coach allegedly saw Sandusky lying closely with and/or underneath Victim 1 in a high school gymnasium.  The Grand Jury report details facts which the wrestling coach seemed to think were off with Sandusky’s relationship with the young boy who was Victim 1.  From the Grand Jury report, it does not appear that the wrestling coach ever reported what he saw to the authorities.

There was the assistant principal who served as the high school head football coach.  In the Grand Jury report, the assistant principal described conduct he witnessed by Sandusky which he characterized as “suspicious.”  Yet, that suspicious conduct didn’t cause the assistant principal to alert authorities.  Later, the assistant principal was contacted by Victim 1’s mother who alleged that Sandusky had sexually assaulted her son.  The assistant principal reported these allegations to authorities, as required under Pennsylvania law.

There was the person who the Grand Jury report refers to as the “Graduate Assistant.”  The Graduate Assistant testified before the Grand Jury that in 2002, he allegedly witnessed Sandusky perform the most heinous of sexual acts on what appeared to be a ten year-old boy.  The Graduate Assistant reported the incident first to his father, and then to Joe Paterno.  Later, he would report it to Pennsylvania State Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz.  The Graduate Assistant never reported what he allegedly saw to authorities.

The day after the Graduate Assistant told Paterno what he allegedly saw, Paterno reported the incident to Pennsylvania State Athletic Director, Tim Curley.  Thus, Paterno arguably fulfilled his legal reporting requirement.  Paterno did not report the incident to police.

Curley reported the incident to The Second Mile, the charitable organization founded by Sandusky.  The Second Mile claims that it, “. . . challenges young people to achieve their potential as individuals and community members by providing opportunities for them to develop positive life skills and self-esteem as well as by providing education and support for parents and professionals addressing the needs of youth.”  Neither Curley nor Schultz (who also oversaw the University Police department) reported the alleged incident to authorities.

According to The Second Mile’s website, its CEO was informed that the Graduate Assistant allegedly saw Sandusky in a shower with a youth, but not of the more serious allegation.  It does not appear that The Second Mile’s CEO reported this allegation to authorities.

Curley also testified that he advised then Penn State President Graham Spanier of what the Graduate Assistant relayed to him.  Spanier did not report the allegations to authorities.

Schultz knew of allegations against Sandusky in 1998, which allegedly involved Sandusky engaging in improper conduct with a young boy in a shower on Penn State’s campus.  Yet, Schultz and Penn State did not forbid Sandusky from bringing minors onto campus until four years later, in 2002.

There was “Victim 6,” who in 1998, allegedly returned home from an outing with Sandusky with wet hair.  This concerned his mother, who then questioned him about what happened.  Victim 6 reported to his mother that Sandusky allegedly acted improperly with him in the shower.  Victim 6’s mother reported the incident to authorities.  Ultimately, District Attorney Ray Gricar did not pursue charges against Sandusky.  Gricar subsequently went missing and to date, has not been found.

There was a janitor who allegedly saw Sandusky engage in improper sexual contact with “Victim 8.”  There was another employee who allegedly saw Sandusky exit the locker room with Victim 8, both having wet hair.  The men reported what they saw to their immediate supervisor.  Their allegations were not made to authorities.

The Grand Jury report sets forth heinous acts which were allegedly perpetrated against young boys over a time period spanning more than a decade.  Adults witnessed the alleged actions.  Adults were told of the alleged actions.  Yet, the only times police were alerted about the allegations, were when a principal fulfilled his legal duty and a mother learned of what allegedly happened to her son.

This, in and of itself, is the lesson.

As a society, when we learn of even the subtlest gesture that implies an impropriety against children, we must report it.

When something seems “off,” we must report it.

When a child returns home from an outing with an adult man with wet hair, we must ask questions.

When an adult sees an adult man, naked and alone in a shower with a young child, there are no questions to ask.  Authorities must be alerted.

No action is too inconsequential to report to authorities when the well-being of a child is potentially at stake.

We, as society, must be outraged when allegations like these are raised against children.  We should rush to protect them.  We should be willing to swarm the streets in large numbers to demonstrate our anger that acts like these could allegedly happen against children.

Had more adults taken proper care, trusted their gut and used common sense to alert the authorities about what they saw with their own eyes or what they learned was allegedly being done to children, the Grand Jury report could have ended with just one victim’s story.

Yet, even one victim would be too many.

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