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Penn State Scandal Shows Lack of Moral Courage

Too many cowards who could have stopped this abuse did nothing.

I couldn’t help but recoil in disgust as I read the state attorney general’s grand jury presentment by former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

But it wasn’t the awful, graphic details of the alleged crimes that made me sick.

No. What disgusted me was the endless number of people who could have stopped the abuse throughout the years and either did nothing or passed the buck to someone else. After reading the grand jury’s report, I have no doubt this abuse could have ended more than a decade ago if those in power had done their job.

And this isn’t just an indictment on Penn State officials and the football program, even as . The events that led to his dismissal should have never taken place if those who knew of these accusations more than a decade ago stepped up to the plate.

This story has a human cost, and not only affecting the alleged victims. It is a sad reflection of our society and people not making the right decisions to help – maybe save – the young boys who were victimized. What a poor reflection this is on all of us.

It is a sad story of cowards with a lack of moral courage.

Why did the Centre County district attorney refuse to prosecute Sandusky in 1998 after two University detectives said they overheard Sandusky admitting to showering with a young boy. We’ll never know the answer because the district attorney, Ray Gricar, went missing in 2005 and recently was declared dead.

Why did Thomas Harmon, the director of PSU’s police department, close the case even as detectives continued to investigate a subsequent attack. How could police let this (alleged) monster walk free with only the promise that he wouldn’t shower with young boys again? Sandusky conspicuously retired from his coaching position the following year. It makes you wonder if the investigation quietly worked its way up the PSU chain-of-command.

In 2000, a janitor cleaning up the practice facility’s locker room told his boss he witnessed Sandusky performing a sex act on a young boy in the showers, according to the grand jury report. The Korean War vet said it was one of the worst things he had ever seen, but he never reported it to authorities. He was not bound by Penn State officials to keep his mouth shut.

All of this leads us to the final question.

Why did grad assistant Mike McQueary not immediately stop the abuse when he said he witnessed Sandusky raping a 10-year-old boy in 2002? Even if McQueary didn’t intervene because he was so disturbed, why didn’t he contact police. After that, we get into the chain-of-command debacle that has embroiled Joe Paterno and Penn State University in scandal.

But this goes beyond a cover-up scandal involving Penn State. It strikes at the heart of people not having the moral courage to do what is right.

And that is more striking than the unceremonious end to a legendary football coach’s career.

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Stephanie Rex November 10, 2011 at 03:49 AM
Thank you for writing this, Mike. Well said.
Zandy Dudiak November 10, 2011 at 04:08 AM
I agree with Stephanie. Well put. And I hope others learn so this type of thing never happens again—in schools, churches, anywhere.
Mike Jones (Editor) November 10, 2011 at 04:11 AM
This should be a lesson to all of us about reporting these types of abuse no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel.
Becky Brindle November 10, 2011 at 04:20 AM
Mike, I'd like to hear your thoughts on the students rioting at Penn State right now...
Donna Krek November 10, 2011 at 05:00 AM
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Mike Jones (Editor) November 10, 2011 at 05:22 AM
Personally, I think the Board of Trustees acted hastily in this decision. The spokesman said numerous times they still don't have enough information about what exactly McQueary told JoePa. I think his knowledge of what exactly took place should be what decided his fate. Of course, there might be more to this story that we still haven't heard.
Jo Ellen Welsh November 10, 2011 at 06:16 AM
I believe more heads should roll.....McQueary being one of them.
Mike Jones (Editor) November 10, 2011 at 01:05 PM
I agree that McQueary should also go. But why has the board fired Paterno, but apparently made no decision on McQueary?
Guest November 10, 2011 at 02:37 PM
I think they acted to hastily towards JoePa. The others involved I hope Sandusky gets his KARMA two fold. However, I read parents of some of the victims went to the police. Why didn't parents demand more information then? Why did the parents of the victims let the issue fall? My heart and prayers go out to the victims. As a parent I would have done more than what it seems these parents did.
Mike Jones (Editor) November 10, 2011 at 02:52 PM
We need to be very careful when blaming the parents of the victims, including the mother who hounded police to file charges. I'm sure they felt powerless once the police/DA decided not to prosecute. These little boys and their parents were not only going up against a monster, but the all-powerful institution that is Penn State University.
Guest November 10, 2011 at 03:29 PM
I'm not blaming the parents at all. i didn't mean for it to come off that way, BUT when it's your child you should never feel intimidated by anything when wrong doing is happening.
Mike Jones (Editor) November 10, 2011 at 09:20 PM
The more I read about this investigation, the more I believe that Penn State and the football coaches knew about these allegations in 1998. And it makes me think that the other shoe -- or shoes -- has yet to drop. This is going to be ugly for a while.
Larry Weiss November 11, 2011 at 02:19 AM
If Joe Paterno had been the witness who saw this occur in the locker room, and if the child were his grandson, then he probably would have called the police right away or possibly grabbed a baseball bat. It's what you expect from a father figure. Kids need fathers who step up and be a man among men. That's what Joe was for so many kids. When all the facts are finally known, and it is determined that he knew about the 2002 incident, then sadly he would have failed by his own standards.
Mike Jones (Editor) November 11, 2011 at 03:20 AM
Larry... I think you're right on all accounts. We need to learn what exactly Joe Paterno knew about that disgusting rape in the showers. Did he fully understand what Mike McQueary saw, or did he think it was something more benign? Regardless, I think we're all going to learn that everyone involved kept a very dark secret for far too long.
Mrs. McNulty November 11, 2011 at 02:06 PM
The lesson EVERYONE needs to learn from this is: when you witness a crime call 911 immediately and stick around to tell the police what you witnessed. How can anyone live with the knowledge that they did not step in to help a child? I hope these victims sue the crap out of Penn State and everyone involved. If they hold the life and safety of a child in such low regard maybe they will learn a lesson when they have to pay $$$ for their wrongs.
Roger November 12, 2011 at 03:19 AM
Cross-post from Peters Patch:While having been a fan of JoePa for a long time, he has shown himself to be part of a depraved mankind. All the great things he has done for a football program is down the drain in a very short week. He may call it a "tragedy" but I think that misses the mark. There is no tragedy here, rather a manifestation of evil, omission of doing the right thing, that is, making bad choices. A tragedy is something that is unavoidable. In this case, by omission, the matter could have been handled properly. We all make choices daily, thousands of them every day. Some choices have little consequence to the outcome, others have major implications. Mr. Paterno, and others at PSU, made choices. Sandusky made choices with his relationship to the boys. I make choices, as well. Every choice is based upon a foundation of my person, that is, what are the motivating forces in my life (some call this "heart"). But, I also know that my heart is deceitful, evil, and wicked. All my choices are not right, and may have negative consequences. This entire story points up our human nature as being evil and wicked. To think that we are "good," is to deny the reality. The major question each has to ask, "What is my foundation of good and evil, and how do I know what to do with each choice?" Clearly, many people involved in this story made bad choices (not a tragedy). The outcome of their choices are very public. Most outcomes are not so public.
JoAnn November 13, 2011 at 08:56 AM
Roger, I am outraged!!! How does a man walk away from an innocent child being raped and do nothing?! Mike McQueary made a choice and had a legal and moral obligation to rescue that poor defenseless child from a monster. Instead he went home to his "daddy" and told him which then "daddy" told Paterno. In my eyes, all invovled in not rescuing this child aided and abetted Sandusky. Paterno never followed up on this horrific crime against an innocent child. I would be everything I own that if that were one of his children or grandchildrens he would have responded differently. What bothers me is that innocent victim probably thought at the time that McQueary would rescue him and instead he did nothing. I can't wrap my mind around how he failed this child and also why wasn't he the first one to be fired. Earlier reports were that McQueary was being protected because of death threats. What a jole! He did nothing to protect this chid! Shame on him and his "daddy.!!! Yes, I'm glad Paterno was fired; he needed to be knocked off his pedesal. He was arrogant enough to think he could determine how he would end his career. The victims should be kept in everyone's prayers along with their families. Damn those who did nothing to rescue and call the police. Lastly there a quote I have always used: A man is never as tall as when he kneels down to help a child. (Author Unknown)
Mike Jones (Editor) November 13, 2011 at 08:48 PM
In the wake of such sorrow, I think the two teams coming together before the game was very powerful... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuIOReiCmEo&feature=player_embedded
Roger November 14, 2011 at 01:12 AM
JoAnn, your comments directed to me seems to indicate you believe I am excusing anybody involved. You have misread my comment entirely if that is what you believe. Just because I refuse to call it a "tragedy" does not minimize the problem. We use "tragedy" in an effort to remove ourselves from responsibility. Likewise, the term "mistake" is often used when somebody is involved with some horrific behavior or action. I scream to the TV when an defense attorney is standing next to a perpetrator, and saying "he/she made a mistake." Use of these terms only serves to gloss over the action, attempting to excuse (that is, "they didn't know any better") the wrongful action. My comment was intended to reach to the core of the matter with comments about evil and wickedness. We are all guilty in the same way. For most of us, our acts are deemed not as significant, still being wrong (read: evil and wicked), and we are not as high profile as those involved at Penn State. In this case, there are many in the pool of "casting the first stone" crowd. It is easy to point to the wrongs of another in an effort to make ourselves look good.
Mike Jones (Editor) November 14, 2011 at 03:38 AM
Roger... I thought the same thing when I read the first sentence. But the more that I read JoAnn's comment, the more she said the same thing as you. The only people who need to explain themselves work for Penn State University. I thought your comment struck at the heart of my column in that we are ALL responsible for this atrocity. As easy as it is to assign blame, our society has conditioned people to be silent rather than do what is right.

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