Late last night, thousands rioted the streets of State College, Pennsylvania. This was not an Occupy Wall Street demonstration. It was a reaction from Penn State students when they found out their university’s football coach Joe Paterno (JoePa) was fired. Paterno’s legendary, half century performance as head coach of the Nittany Lions came to a sudden halt and the bulk of students were angry, to say the least.
Penn State’s trustees fired Paterno and the university’s president Graham Spanier. At the center of the sackings is a sexual abuse scandal; the alleged perpetrator – Jerry Sandusky, the football team’s former defensive coordinator.
In 2002, Mike McQueary (a graduate assistant at the time who became the team’s receivers coach) told Paterno of some disturbing behavior he witnessed. He reportedly saw Sandusky in a shower performing anal sex on a 10-year-old boy, according to Campus Rivalry (USA Today). Paterno notified his superiors at the university, but critics, including Attorney General Tom Corbett, say that he did all he had to do legally, but he should have done more. Paterno has not been charged, nor is he being investigated; however, the university’s athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz have been charged with failing to report the allegations to Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services.
Accusations of Sandusky’s sexual abuse predated the 2002 incident. In 1998, a mother of an alleged victim challenged the coach, asking him why he showered with her son naked. Within a 15 year period, Sandusky is suspected of sexually assaulting eight different boys equating to 40 different counts of abuse.
Wednesday night’s rioters blamed the media for tarnishing Paterno’s reputation and over-implicating him in Sandusky’s abusive acts. They emblematically flipped over a news van in addition to knocking over light poles, raiding the roofs of parked cars with even some storming police officers.
According to the Pennsylvania Code 21.502., staff members who “come into contact with children shall immediately notify the person in charge of the institution, school, facility or agency or the designated agent of the person in charge when they have reasonable cause to suspect on the basis of their professional or other training or experience, that a child coming before them in their professional or official capacity is a victim of child abuse.”
What do you think? In this context, Paterno did all that was legally required. Should the code be rewritten so that any staff member that suspects child abuse should immediately report to protective services or the proper authorities? These are the type of issues you can discuss, analyze and perhaps be inspired to change while pursuing a Public Policy Degree or Political Science Degree.