The safety of our children overrides winning, protecting our institutions
By EARL WATT
Leader & Times
I’ve tried over and over again to come up with some reasonable explanation why Joe Paterno should remain as coach at Penn State.
But I just can’t.
One question comes back over and over.
Why didn’t you do more, Joe?
Why didn’t you go to the shower and punch Jerry Sandusky in the mouth?
Why didn’t you call the police?
Why didn’t you check on the young boy that was just humiliated and scarred for life?
You did do something, and I’ve tried and tried to rationalize that it was enough.
But it wasn’t.
An eyewitness came to you, the leader of the team, and reported a horrific incident.
Why didn’t this grad assistant punch Sandusky in the mouth?
Why didn’t this grad assistant call the police?
Why didn’t this grad assistant check on the young boy?
There is only one answer to those questions. Money.
Sandusky will have his day in court, and he has a right to it. Everyone is innocent in this nation until proven guilty.
What we do know that happened is this: A grad assistant saw something that he tought was inappropriate in the shower between Sandusky and a young boy, and he reported it to Joe Paterno. Paterno then reported it to the athletic director.
Not good enough on anyone’s part.
Go to the shower. Confront the situation. If the grad assistant lied, he should have been fired. If Sandusky was doing what the grad assistant said he was doing, he should have been prosecuted, and Paterno could have been a key witness along with the grad assistant.
This incident is not just a Penn State problem.
This should be a warning to us all that coaches and administrators have a higher responsibility than simply telling a higher-ranking official about reported behavior and believing that is enough.
If a coach is having an inappropriate relationship with a student or any young person, there is a higher responsibility on anyone who witnesses the behavior or has had the behavior reported to them to take action, and to do so immediately.
There does not need to be a reflection time to consider if the act was consensual or if it might be embarrassing to the school.
Take action immediately.
Coaches do not have the right to take advantage of children who are trusting them as leaders.
If a school official is aware of this behavior, and puts the institution above the well-being of the student, then they should be accomplices to the crime.
And it is a crime.
This is not a moral dilemma. It is criminal.
If nothing more than the Good Samaritan laws, Joe Paterno did nothing to protect a child who was allegedly being violated by one of his assistant coaches, and he should have done something.
While Penn State may be thousands of miles away, there is a lesson to be learned for all of us.
When you see something, correct it immediately. Intervene.
If you hear about something that is illegal, call the police, and then call your superior.
Let the authorities decide if a crime has been committed, but always err on the side of the child, not the coach or the institution.
It is my hope that we have never had any behavior like this in our community or in the schools where we cover their sports.
If we have, and we have chosen to cover it up, just like Penn State, then this should be a lesson that while you may be able to delay it, you can never hide it. The truth will come out, and if someone’s role has been to brush something under the carpet, then not only will the perpetrator face justice, but all involved will suffer for their roles as well.
And rightfully so.
Before a coach can be a winner, or an administrator worth their position, there has to be an overriding moral compass that puts the safety of the children above everything else.
Now would be a good time for all schools to review their policies and see if they are encouraging their coaches, administrators and elected officials to do the right thing when accusations are made.
And that may be all they are — accusations.
But if they do not do anything about the accusation, or if their response is to re-assign an employee to a different job, or limit access, maybe they should re-evaluate if that is actually looking out for the best interest of children.
We know what Penn State chose to do or not do.
Now is the time to make sure we are all doing the right thing. The best way to protect a school’s reputation is to first protect children.