Posted: Monday, November 14th 2011 at 3:19pm
Cheering for the Wrong Team
By Stan Hall Staff
I try to be one who goes with the flow for the most part. But, like you, there are a few things that get me riled up. They are issues that are not up for debate concerning my position. These are topics that will never fit into the ever growing “grey” category. They are very black and white issues that are not subject to various interpretations and semantics. These are the things in life that are very, very wrong and when they occur, someone must be held accountable. My “hot button” issue is incidents where children are abused. I have spoken about this topic for my entire career. And, even after having been involved in the investigation and prosecution of more of these cases than I would like to admit, I am still astounded that anyone would intentionally harm a child. But, they do...over and over and over.
My “hot button” alarm sounded this week with the news that several children had allegedly been abused by a former coach at Penn State University. There are at least nine boys who had apparently been molested over a series of years. According to the reports, there are actually witnesses who saw the perpetrator in the shower with a child. We all understand that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but this case has all of the trademarks of a major investigation involving some very serious accusations.
Based on where these acts reportedly occurred, Penn State, and the personalities involved, the real story is being lost. I have seen countless stories and interviews about the importance of saving Coach Paterno’s legacy and the stability of Penn State’s reputation, as well as the credibility of their football program. Let me first say this. I am a huge sports fan; as big as they come. But, in a case like this, I could care less about Coach Paterno’s legacy being salvaged or the reputation of Penn State and their football team. I am concerned about the kids who were allegedly sexually abused by someone who was a part of this program and the way in which these incidents were, or perhaps were not, reported.
We must never let ourselves get in a position where major college football programs and their coaches take a more important seat than innocent children who may have been abused. In fact, their fate is not worthy of a comment in this issue. I have seen news footage of Penn State fans rallying around the cause to show support for the program. Where is the rally taking place to show support for the children? Where is the rally taking place to demand justice and for these allegations to be thoroughly investigated and if they are found to be true, hold criminally responsible any person who had any part in this perversion of innocent children? That is where the pep rally should be.
I have no problem with Coach Paterno or Penn State University. But, it seems that these allegations have been known for several years and no one bothered to report the incidents to a police agency. Chain of command and proper channels make for great sound bites, but who in their right mind would ever let that type of red tape get in the way of protecting children? Simply saying that “I reported it to my supervisor” won’t cut it in this circumstance. You report a recruiting violation to your supervisor. You report child molestation to the police.
Most every state has in its laws direct language about designated reporters of child abuse. These are people, based on their positions, who are required to make immediate notification to law enforcement officials of cases where child abuse is suspected. Coaches and universities fall squarely into the group of required mandated reporters. It appears that this did not happen here. There is an allegation that one of the reported abuses happened as recently as two weeks ago. University officials have apparently known about the allegation, including the eye witness incident, for several years. How many children could have been spared this victimization if the concern had been on the children and not the reputation of a football program?
Somebody needs to get their priorities in order. It is more than pathetic. If it truly is all about team, we may now have a team of victims who will struggle with this for the rest of their lives. If these allegations are true, Penn State should line up its cheerleaders on national television with the following cheer…Give me an S, give me an H, give me an A, give me an M, and give me an E. What have you got? I think we all know.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and are not those of the Gwinnett District Attorney’s Office.
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