Sailing the Seas of Cheese: The Case Against Joe Paterno and Penn State
Yesterday I alluded to the Mandated Reporter law and included a link to the Pennsylvania state law. There are a lot of people trying to tell me that Joe Paterno did nothing wrong, that he fulfilled his end of the deal by telling his higher-ups what had been disclosed to him. The District Attorney’s office thus far has stated that they are not chosing to prosecute Paterno for failure to report. I suspect that is a discretion call because they are obviously looking for bigger fish to fry. But under Pennsylvania law, Paterno is just as guilty as Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President of Finance and Business Gary Schultz. Pennsylvania’s Mandated Reporter Law is as follows:
§ 42.42. Suspected child abuse—mandated reporting requirements. (a) General rule. Under 23 Pa.C.S. § 6311 (relating to persons required to report suspected child abuse), licensees who, in the course of the employment, occupation or practice of their profession, come into contact with children shall report or cause a report to be made to the Department of Public Welfare 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.
(b) Staff members of public or private agencies, institutions and facilities. Licensees who are staff members of a medical or other public or private institution, school, facility or agency, and who, in the course of their employment, occupation or practice of their profession, 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. Upon notification by the licensee, the person in charge or the designated agent shall assume the responsibility and have the legal obligation to report or cause a report to be made in accordance with subsections (a), (c) and (d).
It’s up to the District Attorney’s office how to interpret this law. Technically Paterno, by nature of his job as head coach who does interface with minors, should fall into the category of the first paragraph and directly report to law enforcement or child protective services. But the second paragraph gives employees an out. They get to report to their supervisors who fall under first paragraph. If teachers, physicians, counselors, etc are in the first paragraph, then ancillary staff such as secretaries, aides and lunch ladies tend to fall into the second paragraphy.
But for whatever reason, the District Attorney has decided to lump Joe Paterno in with the lunch ladies and give him a pass on his failure to notify law enforement that a child was sexually assaulted in his team’s showers.
Do I agree with it? Not in the least. But perhaps the DA is banking on Paterno’s testimony when they decide to fry bigger fish at Penn State.
No, Paterno didn’t assault anyone, and it is even more aggregious that administrators higher up the chain of command perpetuated the silence. And I’ll be the first to admit he isn’t the biggest problem with Penn State’s epic fail. But there is no denying that Paterno continues to prove that he either doesn’t or chooses not to get it when it comes to this utter tragedy.
The fact that he beamed as he soaked up the attention and chants of We Want Joe speaks volumes to his current priorities. And his statement today shows his continued defiance and demostrates where his priorities still lie. It was nothing short of pissing in all four corners of the room and marking his territory.
It’s still only All About the Football and Paterno’s legacy.
I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind: To serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care. I have the same goal today.
That’s why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.
This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more. My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this university.
Allow me to translate with a little Shorter Joe: It’s always been about the football and I don’t care who got squashed along the way. Penn State owes me for their fortune and I don’t care what the Board of Trustees says. I am still in charge around here and will call the shots. You cannot force me out. I’m the one putting cash in their pockets. Oh yeah, some kids got hurt along the way so I’ll throw in some obligatory remorse at the end of the statements. By the way, I loved the pep rally for me last night.
Seriously, who is in charge over at Penn State?
And with that statement, Paterno clearly illustrates how misdirected the entire university’s priorities are at the current time. Letting Paterno call the shots while a scandal rages on is unthinkable. Then again, it’s obvious that a $50 Million a year football machine is their ultimate priority. The University is willing to fire university president Graham Spanier post haste yet they are willing to let Joe Paterno dictate his own exit strategy.
Let me just remind you this isn’t a victimless sex scandal involving consensual adults. Children were violated and assaulted. These heinous criminal acts were witnessed by Penn State employees on no less than two occasions. And yet they let the ultimate money maker still call the shots.
Then again, Penn State is sitting atop the Big Ten at this moment and stands to reap millions more if they are extended a BCS bowl bid come Jaunary.
Yeah, it’s obvious where Penn State’s priorities lie. Justice doesn’t appear to factor in to the matter. Money does.
Penn State has made it’s choice. And it isn’t with the boys left to fend for themselves, naked and shivering in a shower.
Joe Paterno and his superiors are no different that the countless bishops and cardinals who are no vilified for sweeping child abuse cases for decades under the rug. How are these cases any different? Why is the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church condemned yet Paterno continues to be lionized? Someone answer that for me, because I really want to know where the difference lies.
There is no doubt that Penn State needs to restructure its leadership, redirect its priorties and reset its moral compass. At this moment, there is no question it is failing the first paragraph of its own mission statement :
Penn State is a multicampus public research university that educates students from Pennsylvania, the nation and the world, and improves the well being and health of individuals and communities through integrated programs of teaching, research, and service.