By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
For the past week, I’ve listened to folks debate the wisdom of the NCAA sanctions on Penn State. Did the NCAA cross the line, going beyond their jurisdiction into a criminal matter? Were the sanctions steep enough for an institution whose leaders chose public relations over protecting children from a pedophile? Is the Freeh report enough evidence?
I haven’t run across anyone who thinks Coach Joe Paterno and the Penn State administration did enough to protect the children abused by Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted in June on 45 counts.
But many seem to take issue with the $60 million fine, four-year bowl ban, reduction in football scholarships and vacating its wins since 1998. Some have argued that the sanctions against Penn State harm people who had nothing to do with the Sandusky and his crimes.
If that was the litmus test for NCAA sanctions, none would ever be handed down.
I think the NCAA clearly has the jurisdiction under the auspices that Penn State’s leaders exhibited the absolute opposite of institutional control. I think the NCAA also had a moral imperative to act.
Several years ago, Victor Vieth, the executive director of the National Child Protection Training Center, was the keynote speaker at the annual Stop the Hurt conference in Tupelo, and he talked about what it would take to end child abuse in three generations.
The first thing he talked about was getting people to acknowledge it.
“Lots of people turn away … it’s too disturbing,” Vieth said at the conference. “We think it can never happen to our kids, the kids in our neighborhood or kids we know.”
He talked about how devastating it was to children being abused to have adults ignore the signs of abuse or dismiss their stories.
They are abandoned by the adults that could rescue them from the abuse.
It’s what happened at Penn State, either because the leaders couldn’t fathom the idea that good ole Jerry would do anything like that or because they couldn’t stomach the short-term bad publicity charges against him would bring.
Sadly what happened at Penn State isn’t an isolated incident.
“The biggest challenge is that the vast majority of kids don’t get into the system,” Vieth said during that Stop the Hurt conference. “They’re screened out because the system is overburdened.”
It’s time to draw a line in the sand. We are not going to look the other way while children are harmed. And it’s not just Penn State that needs to change.
Michaela Gibson Morris is a Daily Journal staff writer. Contact her at (662) 678-1599 or firstname.lastname@example.org