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The Penn State Sexual Abuse Scandal – My Thoughts

Today I am veering off the topic of all things breast cancer and delving into the subject of the Penn State sexual abuse scandal. I decided to do so because as an educator, mother, cancer survivor and human being I have been greatly disturbed by the story that has unfolded there in recent days. Some issues I care too much about to not speak out about. This is one of those issues.

First of all as an educator, I want to say ‘shame on you’ to all involved in any way at Penn State for your lack of timely and thorough action and/or investigation. As a long-established and revered institution of higher learning, you have let us all down. And if there was indeed a cover-up, well, don’t even get me started…

In many states educators are bound by law to report abuse to outside authorities, but it is my understanding this is not the case in Pennsylvania where it is only required to report incidents to a superior in the “chain of command.” Law or no law, in my opinion, all educators are morally bound to protect the well-being of our youth. No matter how you try to spin this story, it comes back to that.

Individuals at Penn State failed in this responsibility. Adults failed to protect children.

As a mother, I am even more appalled by this story. Coaches, teachers and all authority figures are entrusted to watch out for our children. We expect such role models, above and beyond all else, to provide a safe environment for learning and growth.

As a cancer survivor and human being, I empathize with the victims and I wonder how those children who were abused are ‘surviving’ today. I wonder how they feel about the labels ‘victim’ and ‘survivor.’ I wonder how they have struggled with this burden they have been forced to bear. I wonder if they have been able to move on. I wonder what they think should be done.

During the last few days I’ve listened with interest to discussions about what should be done now. I’m not talking about the legal ramifications. Others will address those, and there will undoubtedly be many. I’m referring to the football realm of things.

Some believe the game last weekend with Nebraska should never have been played. Some believe the rest of Penn State’s football season should be canceled. Some believe stiffer sanctions should be imposed and the 2012 season (and perhaps beyond) should be canceled as well (my view if allegations are proven). Some on the other hand, firmly believe the games must go on no matter what. The players, after all, were not at fault and do not deserve to be ‘punished.’ This is true, but…

A child’s innocence and dignity is a precious thing.

Adults have tremendous power and influence over children on a daily basis, literally affecting the trajectory path of each child’s life they come in contact with. Obviously, this influence can result in varying degrees of benefit or devastation for those children.

That’s why in my opinion, if it is proven there was an attempt to cover up this travesty, if it is proven those in power did use that power to protect the reputation of a sport or an institution instead of to protect children, there should be serious sanctions against Penn State. 

Penn State would survive. Football would survive. The players would too.

More facts are coming out daily. The story is yet unfolding. We don’t know who knew what or when they knew it. I’m willing to wait and see.

But one thing is for certain – dollars, football, coaches, or an institution’s reputation must never matter more than the welfare of children.



Do you believe there should be sanctions against Penn State now or in the future?

Do you believe Penn State should be allowed to accept a bowl bid?


Tuesday 17th of July 2012

I just caught your post now. Growing up in Pittsburgh, Paterno was legendary. This is just such a tragedy. Everyone has to take responsibility to protect children, students, etc. The power these people had was incredible, corrupting. Made it easy for them to sweep it under the rug - no accountability. Just because you do good in one area, doesn't mean you can turn the other cheek to evil. And if people are fearful to report misdeeds, it's so wrong.

My husband and I worked in another public university with a strong sports presence. We've been very leery of the power given to college sports programs. I wish that universities in the US would derive their identity from academic achievement - not bowl victories. I wish there was more accountability.

It looks like there may be more serious action taken against Penn State than just a slap on the hand.


Tuesday 17th of July 2012

Elaine, Thanks for reading my earlier post and for sharing your thoughts. As more details come out, it's looking more and more like there was indeed a cover-up. It makes my blood boil to think protecting the university's reputation and football was more important than protecting children. I hope the consequences for all are severe. Otherwise things like this will continue to happen.

Beth L. Gainer

Monday 21st of November 2011

Nancy, I completely agree with you. This is an outstanding post, and the Penn State scandal is appalling. I'm sure there will only be a mild slap on the hand.


Wednesday 23rd of November 2011

Beth, Thanks for commenting. I hope you're wrong about that 'slap on the hands.' Time will tell I guess. Actually, I think time will tell a lot. I'm sure there is lots more yet to come out.


Sunday 20th of November 2011

Great post, Nancy. Good for you using your blog to share thoughts other than cancer. We do have them, don't we? This story is unreal. I don't know how anyone can know of something so horrendous and stand by without taking legal action. How do you live with yourself? I feel for those children and their parents. Let's see how it plays out.


Sunday 20th of November 2011

Stacey, The story is unreal isn't it? Lots more will be coming out I'm sure. Your question is right on, how CAN people who choose not to take any or further action live with themselves? Thanks for commenting.


Sunday 20th of November 2011

No, Nancy. In Pennsylvania, teachers and school professionals (among many other professions - and mine is one, as well) are considered to be 'Mandated Reporters', which means by law, they are required to report abuse to Child Protective Services. It has been explained to me that I would lose my license if I failed to do so. I think that Joe Paterno had enough clout (do you realize that he was the highest paid state employee in Pennsylvania?) that he could have simply refused to have this man on his staff, and no one would have argued with the great 'Pa'. If Joe had reported this properly, the college would have had no choice but to pursue this. I will never understand why such a good, good man decided that if his superiors weren't going to handle it, he'd overlook it as well. This is totally out of charactor for a man long respected for his ethics and honor.


Sunday 20th of November 2011

Debby, Thanks for commenting. According to my source, Wendy Murphy, a leading victims’ rights advocate and nationally recognized television legal analyst and adjunct professor at New England Law in Boston, "in Pennsylvania, as in nine other states, the law is explicit that employees need not report directly to outside authorities and can satisfy their reporting obligation by reporting only to a supervisor. Interestingly, this “chain of command” change to Pennsylvania’s mandatory reporting law happened right before Sandusky’s first alleged on-campus offense in 1998." You can read her entire position in my 'sanctions' link. Actually, it doesn't even matter though, does it? Law or no law, individuals at Penn State failed to protect children. Mr. Paterno can no longer be considered a man of any integrity what-so-ever in my book. He has disappointed many.

Julie Goodale

Saturday 19th of November 2011

I, too, view his health announcement with suspicion. I am sorry that he has lung cancer, but am deeply suspicious of the timing of the announcement.

Also suspicious - selling his house (worth around $600,000) to his wife last July for just $1. Perhaps to avoid losing it because he knew he'd be open for personal liability in civil suits? Curious.


Saturday 19th of November 2011

Julie, Yes it is all curious isn't it? I'm always sorry to hear about anyone's cancer diagnosis, but the timing does seem a bit too coincidental here. Interesting news about the house too. Maybe he knew this was all coming... I have a feeling there will be a lot more to this story, I just hope there aren't too many more victims out there. Thanks for commenting again, Julie.

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