Over the last few months there have been numerous diaries concerning the pedophile scandal at Penn State University (PSU). The primary focus of almost every diary has been to place the majority of blame on Joe Paterno and the unmitigated power he and the football program held over PSU. Each diary, and the subsequent comments, then attempt to use the scandal as a reason to end the football program and destroy what little is left of Paterno's reputation.
I believe both Paterno and the football program deserve condemnation, however, it is my concern that this is a short-sighted focus allowing for many more responsible parties to escape scrunity.
If the goal is to simply take down the biggest name, or push an agenda that college football has become to powerful, than this attack has merit. However, if the goal is to determine how this scandal unfolded, and put in place practices and programs to prevent child abuse in the future, we need to broaden our examination of what occurred.
Over 20 years ago, the state of Pennsylvania (Pa.) allowed Jerry Sandusky to set up and operate a foundation to help disadvantaged youth called The 2nd Mile. Over the years, this foundation grew to become one of the largest and most financially successful philanthropies in Pa. Thousands of children were placed into 2nd Mile, all under the review and approval of the state Child Welfare leadership. 2nd Mile employed numerous individuals, supposedly trained to identify "high risk", dangerous adults, and preceive signs of abuse in children. To this date, there has been no evidence of anyone at the state level, or at 2nd Mile, who voiced any concerns revolving around Sandusky or his actions. This is extremely distrubing. People who's life purpose, education, and training was to recognize the signs of both child abuse and pedophilia, failed to ever raise a single concern.
For over 20 years, Jerry Sandusky was approved by the Pa. Child Welfare leadership to have over 20+ foster children placed in his home. Again, there is no evidence anyone from the state raised any concerns. Apparently, not one background check, home visit, or interview with any children raised even a single "red flag". Again, this is extremely distrubing. Again, experts with all the training required to preceive signs of abuse failed.
After almost 30 years of working at PSU, and over 20 years of being a state approved caretaker of children, Sandusky is accused of inappropriate contact with a child in 1998. This is the first time evidence can be sighted of someone questioning Sandusky. Prior to '98, there is nothing in Sandusky's record except glowing accounts of his charity. The '98 investigation is conducted by both the PSU police and Childrens Welfare Services. All charges are determined to be unfounded and the case is dropped. According to both the 3 year Attorney General (AG) investigation and the 6 month Freeh investigation, PSU does not influence any part of the investigation. However, Children's Services either ignores or breaks the law by not informing Sandusky's foundation, 2nd Mile, that an investigation took place. The PSU police department, decides to bury the report as unfounded and do not notify PSU Human Resources, as is required by law.
The '98 accusations and investigation results seem extremely important. This was the first opportunity to stop Sandusky. Again, trained professionals missed all the signs that Sandusky was a pedophile. Two psychologists examined the evidence. One stated Sandusky simply had "boundary issues". The other psychologist stated Sandusky showed all the signs of a pedophile who "groomed" children by rewarding them. Child Welfare only shared the "boundary issue" report and never shared the report that Sandusky was a potential pedophile. Again, trained professionals failed to see Sandusky as he is. It appears all future PSU decisions regarding Sandusky are made with the resuts of this investigation lingering in the backs of their minds.
In 2001, a 28 yr old graduate assistant (McQueary), reports to his father, a family friend who is an MD, Paterno, the Athletic Director (Curley) and a PSU Vice President (Shultz) he witnessed "something sexual", involving Sandusky and a child in the PSU showers. However, whatever he witnessed, and whatever he told them, especially his Physician Asst. father and the family friend doctor, does not concern them enough to call the police. Two of these men work in the medical field and certainly understand reporting laws concerning child abuse. It seems McQueary's report does not, in their minds, rise to the level of a crime. And it seems PSU leadership see this as the same type of report made in '98.
It is the actions of Paterno and PSU leadership from this point, that has brought all of them down. Paterno waits 24 hours and reports McQueary's account (a Sunday) to his superiors. Curley and Shultz, prior to meeting with McQueary, discuss the accusation with PSU President Spainer and PSU legal council that Sunday, according to legal billing reports. It is decided at that time to not report Sandusky, but to confront him and see that he receives help. Paterno was not in this meeting. It appears he is later consulted about their proposed actions and he signs off on them. From this point on, PSU does nothing to prohibit Sandusky from using the facilities, and never reports the McQueary account. PSU legal council (Baldwin) even later advises the University to do nothing negative to Sandusky for fear of a lawsuit. She states he has never committed a crime, and therefore must retain all of his privileges. And the Freeh report finds no evidence PSU made any decisions regarding Sandusky's future based on any previous accuations.
Finally (I know), the AG conducts a 3 year investigation, starting in 2008, into Sandusky being a pedophile. For the entire 3 years, Sandusky is allowed to roam free and prey on children. And while the investigation includes 2nd Mile, the AG (now govenor), accepts large donations to his campaign from 2nd Mile.
Based on the entire saga, I do not believe Paterno or football are the main players in this scandal. If we truly want to find the root causes for how a pedophile existed as long as he did, there needs to be a complete overhaul of the Child Welfare System in Pa. This is the program that should be shutdown and rebuilt. The police and welfare workers involved in the '98 investigation need to be held to account. The AG needs to explain why Sanduskyy was allowed to roam free for 3 years while being investigated, and why he accepted money from a foundation he was actively investigating. The lawyers for PSU need to be investigated for malpractice. 2nd Mile needs to be shutdown and investigated about what they knew and what they did/did not report. Finally, the Paterno statue should be removed.
Again, my concern with everyone blaming Paterno and football is that the bigger picture is being missed. Destroying Paterno or shutting down the football program may feel good, but it does not protect a single child in the future. A more detailed evaluation of the roles of the many people and institutions involved in this scandal might save the next child.
That is what we all really want, right?