Joe Paterno: The Blind Eye Of Betrayal

It’s the most difficult story I’ve ever toiled with. This is the heaviest my heart has ever felt while writing a post. But, it’s not about me and just because I’d rather not think about it doesn’t mean it’s going to go away. In fact… this inner tendency to turn away from something which is very difficult to think about… is at the very heart of the scandal now plaguing Penn State University, Joe Paterno, Mike McQueary and all of the victims of Gerald A. Sandusky.

Clearly, it is Jerry Sandusky who started all of this. However, he is not nearly the only one at fault for the number of victims multiplying over the years at Penn State University.

That’s because this is Joe Paterno’s province and Joe Paterno, as well as many PSU officials, turned a blind eye to the victims of Mr. Sandusky.

Penn State is Joe Paterno’s territory. It’s his football program (yes… it still is). It’s his football players and his student body. Joe Paterno and Penn State have been interchangeable for nearly half a century now.

Jerry Sandusky was hired by Joe Paterno. Jerry Sandusky is (was) Joe Paterno’s guy. Sandusky was thought to be Paterno’s heir apparent at one time and you can also be sure Paterno was grooming him for such a succession.

Joe Paterno was born in 1926. That’s two years after my father was born. There are some distinctive characteristics about so many men of that generation. Strong. Stoic. Stubborn. Emotionally unavailable. I recall my father once saying, in response to me having expressed my feelings, “Oh, don’t feel that way.” I’ve often thought that the men of that era were nearly incapable of identifying with the feelings of others, because they were taught of be strong, stoic and stubborn and to keep a stiff upper lip.

That kind of guarded and insensitive approach to “being a man” is one of the first things I thought about when I heard the news surrounding Paterno, McQueary and the Sandusky assaults.


I‘m in my 34th year of teaching and have worked for 11 years with inner-city Kansas City youth. I’ve taught computers for 15 years now. Does that mean I teach computers? No. I teach children, not computers.

I’m a child advocate. A child advocate stands up for the rights and positive development of children.

Joe Paterno has been a football coach for 45 years. Does he teach football? No. He is a teacher of our youth.

Am I comparing Joe Paterno to myself? No.

However, I am expressing a point of view… from a child advocate’s perspective.

I’m sure if you were to ask Joe Paterno if he is a child advocate, he’d say yes, absolutely. In fact, Penn State has long been a bastion of moral and ethical standards and “JoePa” has been the iconic symbol of that universities’ principles. He has touted these principles openly for decades. “We will do things the right way.”

In my graduate work in the early 90s I attended a course on Child Abuse. A specific memory I have of that course is that: teachers are mandatory court reporters, especially as it relates to child abuse and or neglect. But, it doesn’t stop there. We are legally accountable for reporting, to a law enforcement agency, any and all illegal acts of which we may be aware of, or witness.

I’ve been surprised that so many people have come to the defense of Joe Paterno when, in my eye, he neglected to take the most elemental steps that are at the heart of any person who works in a caring profession.

I once reported a parent, at one of my schools, of neglect. The state came in and investigated the parents. The whole process from beginning to end was heart-wrenching for all involved. Was that an easy decision? No. Could I have turned a blind eye to the situation. I guess. But, I would never have been able to live with myself. So, no. I absolutely could not ever have kept from taking the right action to do what I felt was in the best interest of that child.

Joe Paterno says now that, “I wish I could have done more.” This is the very admission that he didn’t do enough. It may also be an indication that he knew a long time ago that he should have.

I’ve heard some people who are close to Joe Paterno explain that he most certainly thought that what he was doing was “the right thing to do.”

In this case, that is simply inexplicable. It doesn’t add up.

And, it raises too, too many other questions. Questions that we may now never get the answers to.

Questions like: what were Joe Paterno, Penn State Athletic Director, Tim Curley and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business, Gary Schultz and University President Graham Spanier … what were they all really thinking about when they chose not to go to appropriate authorities? Were they thinking about protecting the Penn State football machine? Can they argue in any way that they didn’t know what was the right thing to do? Were they telling the truth when they claimed that they knew of no such sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky even though they took other actions that clearly indicate they did know? At what point does their actions become, a cover-up? Did Joe Paterno even check back with them about what action they were taking?

I’ve read the 23 page Grand Jury transcript, which is not for the faint of heart, and it said that both Curly and Schultz met with Mike McQueary 10 days after the Sandusky rape (in 2002) and McQueary stated to them then that he saw Sandusky having anal sex with a ten year old boy in the shower. Curly and Schultz said that they would look into it and determine further action.

What was the scope of this… looking into it? What did they find? Where are their notes? How did they come to the decision to… take no further action. How could they make such an enormous blunder?

I’m sure is wasn’t a blunder at all. It was calculated and that makes this a much more grave situation.

Curley reported the information not only to Penn State President Graham Spanier but, also to Dr. Jack Raykovitz, who was Executive Director of the Second Mile. The Second Mile is a nonprofit organization serving the youth of Pennsylvania which Sandusky did work for, for many years and is also where he recruited many of the kids it is claimed he is too have violated and abused.

If Curly reported this information to outside organizations to warn them then, why didn’t he report Sandusky’s behavior to the appropriate policing authorities?

If Joe Paterno “handed the ball off” to his “procedural” superiors and he could see they took no appropriate action, why didn’t he step back in and do it himself?

Schultz turned around and testified to the Grand Jury that Sandusky’s actions were, and I quote, “not that serious.”

Curley testified to the grand Jury that he, “had no indication that a crime had occurred.”

Schultz and Curley both told the grand Jury that Sandusky was not banned from the campus and that banning him from brining children on campus was “unenforceable.”

The Grand Jury findings indicate that portions of the Tim Curley and Gary Schultz testimonies were not credible.

They also ruled that the sexual assault by Gerald A. Sandusky should have been reported.

The transcript also restated the law:

“Pennsylvania’s mandatory reporting statute for suspected child abuse is located as 23 Pa. C.S. §6311 (Child Protective Services Law) and provides that when a staff member reports abuse, pursuant to statute, the person in charge of the school or institution has the responsibility and legal obligation to report or cause such a report to by made by telephone and in writing within 48 hours to the Department of Public Welfare of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Joe Paterno’s actions, or non-action, has spurred a national debate.

“When Joe Paterno, the ousted Penn State football coach, was confronted with a possible case of child rape, he notified his bosses rather than call the police or the child-abuse hotline. That was all Pennsylvania law required him to do, yet in most other states the failure to call could be a crime. In more than 40 states, the prevailing policy is that such reports must be made to police or child-protection authorities swiftly and directly, with no option for delegating the task to others and then not following through.” ~CBS Sports

Just because Joe Paterno lives in a backward state doesn’t make his actions any less legally reprehensible. One day, soon, I’m sure those laws will be reversed. It’s sickening to me that, “would be” criminals aren’t criminals at all.

I’m not saying I don’t understand how Mike McQueary and Joe Paterno responded. I just believe they acted in an extremely immoral and ethically unjust way. By doing that, they also helped cause more pain. More abuse. By so doing, they have broken a sacred trust that parents place in a teacher, coach or caregiver’s hands.

It’s hard for me to think of a worse betrayal.

Child advocate?

The worst part of the Penn State Jerry Sandusky offense is that it was a form of “corporate” crime. It’s white collar and it’s a collective endeavor that involved the highest levels of leadership at Penn State, including university President Graham Spanier.

More than 20 victims who have been violated, that we know of, were also violated by Joe Paterno, Penn State and even the state of Pennsylvania, at least in some of the victim’s minds. Why? Because those violated individuals thought, and had a reasonable expectation, that they’d be protected by all of those people and principalities, knowing that those people and principalities also knew of this sexual predator and then did nothing to stop it or to protect them. Each victim in this case could easily believe that not only did Jerry Sandusky rape and violate them but so did every other person up the chain of command, who did nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Now, who’s going to speak up for those victims?

The general public often doesn’t understand why a victim can’t just step forward. And, adults frequently don’t understand a child’s perspective.

A child’s life map is unfinished. They are constantly awaiting, each and every day, for new directions from those who can be trusted. However, they don’t know who can be trusted. They can’t know. They learn it as they go. They sense it. They experience it. Children don’t know they’re safe… until they’re safe. Most kids learn to trust whatever reality unfolds in front of them. Even if it’s what we’d call a sexually abusive attack. They wouldn’t know to call it that. They don’t know what their reality “should” be like. They’re learning it as they go. That’s why they can’t be expected to stop such advances.

Good parents make decisions every day about what is, and what is not, good for their child. Yet, a child is an incomplete work of art, adding color, depth and dimension to their lives on an ever-blooming canvas. This is important for adults to get a glimpse of because without this understanding they can’t appreciate where a child is at and who they really are. They are not just little adults. There are no “young adults.” They can’t understand the multitude of complex experiences in our grownup world and we shouldn’t expect them to. We should protect their innocence.

Joe Paterno had a choice. He could have made a moral decision or a legal decision. Why, after all these years of preaching morality, would he turn away from doing the moral thing? The right thing.

Say it ain’t so, Joe. Say it ain’t so.

I once worked with a four-year-old child whose father had sexually abused him. This child was outgoing but, after the abuse he withdrew into a world of super heroes. He couldn’t live everyday without wearing one of his super-hero uniforms. In his mind it gave him special powers. I’m sure he felt no one could really protect  him and this was his coping mechanism.

With my apologies to the victims, here’s my half-baked comparison but, with an important point to be made…

a group of kids gather after school to watch a fight between a 6th grader and a 3rd grader and everybody is just standing there watching including the teacher, the principal, the school board. All the while… no one steps forward to stop the brutality.

The difference is… the parties involved at PSU were 50 years old and 10 years old and this wasn’t a fight, it was a vicious sexual-emotional-spiritual-psychological-physical assault. This was an act of violence upon a defenseless child. As if PSU offcials all just stood there and watched Sandusky rape him.

Worse yet…

by not stopping it right there… in a way, Penn State officials sanctioned, condoned, and yes, even encouraged Jerry Sandusky to rape and violate over and over again. Yes, 40 counts and counting. Sandusky is facing up to 460 years in jail. I normally believe in not convicting a person until they’re proven guilty but, this is nothing close to normal.

Has Joe Paterno had his head so far up his own football ascot that he couldn’t see what was going on right beneath his own nose guard? This is the same Joe Paterno who told the board what they should be doing… and that they should, not be focusing on his status but, be discussing matters far more important. Paterno is telling them. That’s been standard practice  at J.P. University.

Paterno has been a PSU deity for so long now that not even his own athletic director nor his board of trustees could oust him in 2004 when there was a push to get him to retire. Of course Joe said, “I’m not going anywhere.”

When you are more powerful than your own boss… then… you are the boss. If you’re the boss, then you are also the one with all of the responsibility. All of it. Until something bad happens of course and then you can step aside and let someone else take the blame.
That’s the problem with carte blanche power. It’s really not American. That’s the reason many people flee to this country. To escape tyrannical leaders. It’s a poison. Not freedom.

National Public Radio (NPR) suggested that Penn State University shut the program down for a year and purge itself of all football staff. Maybe they should go that far but, it’s hard to tell who should stay and who should go. I’d be surprised if Mike McQueary is around too much longer. At this pointed he’s non-functional. How can we really know for sure who was party to this colossal collusion… and who wasn’t? We can’t, can we? So, I wouldn’t disagree with NPR.

Spanier, Curley, and Shultz were all branches of a poisonous tree. So, Joe Paterno is the tree trunk isn’t he?

If a student had been killed, instead of raped, then all of the PSU officials, plus Paterno, would have been ousted by now. Oddly enough, in our prison system, child rapists are thought to be the lowest of the low. In our judicial system, it is the murderers. Even murderers find more shame and disgrace in child rapists and customarily shun them.

Whether you reason that Joe Paterno is legally liable or not, his story will now and forever tell a different tale. This is not the legacy that Paterno had a death grip on prior to two weeks ago. I’m not prone to conspiracy theories but, isn’t it a little strange that this all came out after he got the all-time wins record? There’s also a zealous prosecutor who was on this case six years ago, who came up missing and was never found. Are there even deeper levels of corruption?

Some people come to represent certain aspects of our life experience that are forever cemented in our minds: He’s like honest Abe. He’s a real Einstein. He has the Midas touch.

Joe Paterno has left his legacy too: the blind eye of betrayal.

Just ask the victims. I’ll bet they feel the same.

Joe Paterno doesn’t have to go to jail. He’s already made his jail.

Go ahead, pray for the victims, Joe. It makes me wonder if they’d rather that you didn’t.

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