First thing you need to know about me: I don’t like having very strong opinions when I don’t have knowledge to back them up. It makes me uncomfortable.
Second thing you need to know about me: Many of my friends and relatives have gone to Penn State. I, on the other hand, had a college career entirely untouched by Big Ten football – and, really, a life pretty untouched by team sports as a whole. Fair disclosure, although I don’t think it’s especially relevant.
Third thing you need to know: There is nothing more vile than hurting a child. That’s not something you need to know about me. That’s just a fact.
Given the above, I had my opinions about the hullabaloo that’s been going on about the arrest of Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, but I wanted to see what the facts were. So I went and read the grand jury testimony, uncomfortably.Â Now I feel the right to a few opinions, and here they are.
- The media and students who are making Joe Paterno the center of attention are wrong.Â He’s being made the focus because he’s the most mediable name. That’s crap journalism and lazy thinking, and it’s wrong. It’s making the issue a sports story instead of a story about how victims can get justice for their abusers. (And Jon Stewart handles an appropriate metaphor well in reinforcing that.)
- Everyone who could have called the police and didn’t is wrong.Â Anybody who even has good reason to suspect that a child is being hurt has an obligation to report it to the police. Not to their coworkers, not to their boss: to public law enforcement. If not, you know,Â stop it themselves and then call the police. It appears that dozens of janitors, staff, coaches and personnel were aware, didn’t step in and didn’t call the police. (And this post puts it better than I could.)
- Getting fired for not reporting a crime is right, especially given the circumstances. Â When you work at a school, a charity or any institution whose purpose is to make kids’ lives better, that obligation becomes part of your job. When you don’t protect kids – inside that institution – you’re not doing your job. When you’re not doing your job, you don’t deserve to keep it.
- Leaders take the fall. That’s what makes them leaders.Â When you become a figurehead, responsibilities come with that. Actors and sports stars and politicians and CEO’s and lots of of people gain celebrity. They don’t always want to accept that it comes at a cost. One of the costs is taking the fall when things go wrong.
- There are heroes in this sordid story and they should be getting the attention.Â The victims who spoke up. The mothers of victims who did call the police. The Penn State alumni who are raising money for RAINN. That’s how you protect and help kids, and that’s the only outcome that matters.