A preventable tragedy

Published 12:08 am Saturday, November 12, 2011

It was a tragic series of events that unfolded at Penn State University this past week.

First and foremost, it was tragic for the eight or nine young boys who were allegedly sexually abused by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky over a 15-year span. Sandusky met the boys through his The Second Mile program.

According to its website, The Second Mile was founded in 1977 as “a statewide non-profit organization for children who need additional support and who would benefit from positive human contact.”

It was especially tragic because several people witnessed the locker room assaults, others were aware of the assaults, but no one had the courage to stop the assaults. That speaks volumes to the character of these people.

It was also tragic for Joe Paterno. Throughout his 45-year career as head football coach for the Nittany Lions, Paterno had become an icon as a coach who operated by the book, instilling character in the young men who played for him. That icon will be forever tarnished by the fact Paterno knew what Sandusky had done and did not raise the red flag high enough to bring it to a halt.

When graduate assistant Mike McQueary witnessed Sandusky sodomizing a boy in the locker room showers in March 2002, he did not call the police or attempt to stop it. Instead, he talked to his father and then Paterno, who notified Athletic Director Tim Curley.

What action did Curley and the administration take to prevent future assaults? They took Sandusky’s locker room keys and reported the incident to The Second Mile.

The problem for Penn State is the same as it was for the Catholic Church and the Boys Scouts of America. The crime is compounded by the cover-up. The people (there were others) who knew had an obligation to stop the crime and report it to police. Their failure is inexcusable.

It was fitting for the PSU Board of Trustees to remove Paterno and university President Graham Spanier. Anyone else who failed in his or her obligation deserves the same fate.