Here's a letter about the Penn State scandal that puts what N.C. lawmakers have done with budget cuts to our at-risk children in the same ballpark. What do you think?
If I were the executive director of the NCAA -- I'm not, I'm just a child abuse and neglect attorney for a local child welfare agency in North Carolina -- I'd have handled the Paterno /Penn State scandal a bit differently. I'd have gone on national TV on Monday morning and given the following message:
"Good morning. For the past few months the nation, the sports world and Penn State campus in particular has stunningly been reminded that our first priority has to be safeguarding the welfare of our children. Sadly numerous young boys were violated by a man with a sick proclivity, a football coach at a once proud institution, ironically a program held up as a model for upholding educational values while remaining competitive on the football field.
"According to a report issued by former FBI chief William Freeh, Joe Paterno, our most successful coach of all time, and his colleagues failed to report to authorities that they had reasonable suspicion that Jerry Sandusky molested a young man on the campus of Penn State three years after these men had sufficient information that a report of sex abuse was unsubstantiated regarding Sandusky. Whether what they did in response to the information they received was sufficient or criminal is not the province of the NCAA. A number of young children were molested on that campus following this inaction, a tragic consequence for which affixing blame is both difficult and counterproductive and prone to induce remedies spawned from hysteria not reason.
"Mr. Paterno is dead. His legacy forever tarnished. We can't forget the wonderful things he did for the university and the community of college football. Mr. Sandusky faces a life in prison. Administrators were fired and face perjury charges. Penn State has acted swiftly in instituting reforms to hopefully prevent this from ever happening again. The investigation exposed the manner in which football gained too much influence on a college campus.
"As the director of the NCAA, this morning I point no fingers, as perhaps we all share some of the blame for football and basketball reaching such a lofty and ill- conceived influential status. After all, hasn't the NCAA fostered the very same football (and a basketball) is king credo that blinded Penn State. The BCS bowl system and our NCAA basketball championships are huge industries, and it does not escape me this morning that only big powerful football factories compete for the big prize and that basketball championships are won by teams whose players spend only one year in college then go on to earn obscene amounts of money to play basketball professionally. When money and image rule, the welfare of children can become a secondary priority.
"The NCAA is satisfied that the Courts of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have appropriately deliberated the issues before them and will continue to do so in seeking justice. Penn State has pledged to compensate the victims of this tragedy. Paterno is dead. Sandusky is in jail awaiting a probable life sentence. Removal of this one tumor from a cancerous system would only be a symbolic, politically correct gesture and an attempt by the NCAA to protect its own image, the very thing we accuse Paterno and his colleagues of.
"The NCAA sanctions on Penn State will allow the football program to thrive, but in a way that benefits at-risk children at a time when our own government is neglecting them. All proceeds from any Penn State Bowl games will be earmarked for a special child-abuse treatment and prevention fund. Ten percent of all athletic tickets will also be earmarked for this fund. Ten football scholarships per year will have to go to students who agree to pursue careers in child mental health, social services or other fields that impact at-risk children.
"In addition the NCAA will donate 1/3 of the net proceeds from the BCS bowl games to agencies who serve at-risk children. And this morning I call on the leaders of Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the National Football League to set up similar funds and urge our national leaders to examine the implications of its budget cuts on children's mental health and child welfare programs, children's health insurance and the incidence of child abuse in poor and minority families.
"We wish to turn this tragedy into a positive awareness campaign regarding child abuse and to foster a nationwide sports program that values children not the accumulation of wealth and power by institutions and individuals. Since November the media have inundated the airways with this story as if it were all about Joe Paterno. If we think that Joe Paterno and Penn State are the sole cause of the problems outlined in the Freeh report, we are truly as blinded as was Joe. Thank you."
How can we stand by and acquiesce to the blatant neglect of children by our own General Assembly and point fingers at Joe Paterno? You want something to do besides adding your 2 cents to media-induced hysteria? Scrutinize what your own politicians are doing for children. It's gross neglect.
Former director of Child Advocacy Commission of Durham