Why Parents Should Want Joe Paterno Criminally Charged

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By Lindsay Goldenberg

As a woman, I can admit that I don’t always follow college football. But as a human being with a moral compass, I can tell you that I’m following it now. I imagine most mothers with young children are doing the same.

The events at Penn State over the past week surrounding former Penn State football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and the allegations that he sexually abused several children, some boys as young as 8-years-old, are disturbing and mind-boggling, to say the least. Not only is it incomprehensible that Sandusky could commit such terrible crimes, but what is almost just as shocking is that key staffers around Jerry Sandusky, specifically head coach Joe Paterno, failed to make sure that Sandusky could never work around children or Penn State again. EVER.

That never happened. Instead, what occurred was that Joe Paterno and other Penn State officials turned a blind eye to Sandusky and his criminal actions. This is most evident when you see a timeline of events over the past 17 years. What becomes painfully clear is that Sandusky retired in 1999 amidst a criminal investigation that he sexually abused several boys in the Penn State showers. Despite these investigations, Sandusky was still allowed to be an active figure on the Penn State campus, and even allowed to keep bringing young boys into the showers with him. He was caught allegedly sodomizing a young boy in the showers in 2002, and even after it was brought to Paterno and other Penn State authorities’ attention, he was STILL allowed on campus and nothing further was done about it. 

If you are in a position of power, like Joe Paterno was, it is absolutely your job to make sure that nothing happens under your watch, especially when you have been made aware of an existing problem. Even if you are not in a position of power, like the grad assistant who came forward after seeing Sandusky in the shower (later identified as current Penn State assistant coach and former PSU quarterback Mike McQueary) and you report a crime you’ve seen, but nothing is done about it, you should still continue to speak up. In fact, you should be yelling from the rooftops.

As a parent, you entrust your children to adults in positions of power. Teachers, tutors, school bus drivers, babysitters… If they are doing something as unthinkable as molesting your children, wouldn’t you hope that if another adult saw this happening, they would do everything in their power to stop it and make sure it never happened again? If a teacher sees even another child abusing YOUR child, isn’t it their responsibility to stop it and prevent it from happening again, instead of turning a blind eye? You would certainly hope so.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said she will not bring criminal charges against Joe Paterno for not speaking up about the alleged child abuse by former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. However, it’s not out of the question. It is possible, if the Attorney General changes her mind, to bring a suit against Paterno for failing to prevent a third party with whom he had a supervisory relationship (Sandusky) from committing abuse.

While firing Joe Paterno was definitely the right first step, it needs to go even further than that. If Joe Paterno’s moral compass failed to stop Sandusky from coming to campus every day and continuing to use the school’s showers to commit even more acts of child sexual abuse, perhaps a nationwide law would have.

Parents, what do you think about this? What would you do if your child was at Penn State and nobody was speaking up?

Would a nationwide law have forced Paterno to speak up and prevent more cases of abuse?

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