Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What could he do?

I wasn't going to write anything about the Penn State/Joe Paterno scandal. Really, what else is there to add? But someone asked me a question last week - what did the coach do that was so wrong? This person said that the coach couldn't contact the police, since it was not witnessed by him and therefore hearsay. Also, he reported it to someone higher up at the school.

After looking more into the details (because honestly, at the time of the discussion I didn't have a clue what was going on), here is my answer. It was not up to him to determine if the police could take his word or not. He had a responsibility and an obligation as both a representative of the univerity and as a human to try anyway, and let the police decide what to do. If not making the call himself, he should have encouraged the person who witnessed an incident to call the police, or went to the station with him as support. If this Sandusky guy was as important at the school as it seems, I'm sure the one who witnessed was terrified he'd lose his job if he said anything. It took courage to come forward at all, and to basically be brushed off by someone doing the bare minimum to cover his own backside was just wrong. Even with what he did do with the information - passing along to university officials - he should have followed up with them when nothing came of it. He should have been in their faces, questioning why they didn't report to the proper authorities, why Mr Sandusky still had a job. He should have taken a moment and thought about the victims (even "alleged" victims, if that makes you feel better) and thought to himself "What if this was my child? What would I want done about this?" and gone out of his way to make something happen.

Instead, he let it slide. He did just enough to take the heat off himself (or so he thought) and continued on as usual. Instead, Sandusky was allowed to interact with the children for eight years after his abuse of them was reported to Paterno (see a timeline of events here). Clearly, the beloved coach cared more about the game than the lives of the molested children.

So what did Joe Paterno do? He did nothing. And that is the problem.


  1. Here in Australia there is a "duty of care" ruling that applies (I think that's what it's called, I know that is what is used in other areas of care but it might be something different in the education system) if you are slightly suspicious about anything happening to someone you are duty bound to report it to the police, and this actually applies outside of your individual work area as well. It is a standard duty of care, if you overhear something being spoken about, if another student comes and speaks to you etc must report it or you can be charged

  2. I so agree with you. When I was in university I reported a despicable crime- and was brushed off- as a result many many people ended up getting hurt-- so sad that people are more concerned with positions and such then about protected the innocent.

  3. I completely agree...and have this simple thing to throw in also - Passing the information on and seeing it wasn't acted upon...all he had to do to prevent this from happening there again was simply say, "I don't want to see him here again." In the head coach position, especially one everyone obviously regarded so highly, that's all it would take to keep the problem from happening on his campus again.