This morning a true American legend died--Joe Paterno. I know many people have bad feelings about JoePa because of the whole sex abuse scandal, and I can understand those feelings. I worked for three years with children who had suffered all kinds of abuse, including sexual, so I know all too well the damage that kind of trauma inflicts. Still, the abuse was not Joe Paterno's fault. It was the actions of a sick, evil man. I have heard people say, "Paterno should have stopped it." Maybe, but here is how I see it:
Joe knew this man for many, many years. He was a trusted friend and colleague. Then suddenly, someone came to him out of the blue and told him something he had witnessed. Now, put yourself in that situation. What would you do? You hadn't witnessed anything yourself. You trusted the person who was the accused. You have all kinds of questions running through your head: Did the witness actually see what he thought he saw? Could he have misinterpreted something? Was this just pure gossip or motivated by something such as revenge? How could someone you trusted do such a thing? Then JoePa did do something--he told his boss. He didn't go to the police, but he did follow the chain of command and tell his supervisor about the alleged incident. This is exactly what I would have done in his situation. If someone came to me and told me the same type of thing about one of my friends, a fellow teacher, and I had internal conflict and doubts about it, I would do the same thing. I would tell my principal and let her handle it. I didn't see it for myself, so if I reported it to police, wouldn't it just be hearsay?
The responsible parties in this situation for reporting it to police were the initial witness, if he was sure of what he had seen, or the athletic director or president of Penn State University, wherever the chain of command stopped at the university. This is my opinion.
JoePa was a legend. He was head coach at PSU for 46 years. He won two national championships. The graduation rate of his football players was great. He cared more about the student than about the game. He was beloved by most who knew him. All of these are reasons why I think that he should be remembered as an icon. Like I said, just imagine yourself in his situation . . . what would YOU have done?