Penn State, Jerry Sandusky, and Mandatory Reporting

When the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State child abuse scandal broke, it was nothing short of a hot topic in my lectures about the mandatory reporting of child abuse.  And now that Sandusky has been sentenced I expect his case to come to the forefront again.

During his sentencing this week, Sandusky addressed the court – the first time he’s done so since he was arrested last November.  Sandusky painted himself as a victim, not a monster.  He blamed the media for being in the position he is in, claiming innocence regarding the “disgusting acts” for which he was being sentenced.  In other words, Sandusky is delusional.  It takes a real monster to think that scores of victims and numerous media professionals put their reputations on the line in order to take him down.

As I have mentioned before, Sandusky is not the only criminal in this scandal.  His superiors and the “higher-ups” at Penn State share some blame.  Not only did Penn State help create this monster, they did nothing to stop him.  Mandatory reporting laws, and here I’m referring mainly to Arizona’s MR law as I am most familiar with it, are in place to protect vulnerable children.

In Arizona, A.R.S. §13-3620 requires that school personnel, among others, report to police or to Child Protective Services any reasonable belief that a child has been the victim of physical injury, abuse, or neglect.  The Pennsylvania mandatory reporting statute, 23 Pa C.S. § 6311, requires a person who suspects child abuse in the course of his or her employment report that suspicion to the “person in charge” of the institution.  The Pennsylvania law appears narrower on its face than its Arizona counterpart, but the fact that employees, coaches, and administrators at Penn State may not have violated the mandatory reporting statute in their State does not absolve them of moral culpability for failing to protect children who they knew were in danger.

If Mike McQueary, the assistant coach who witnessed Sandusky raping a boy in Penn State’s football locker room in 2002, had made a report to Pennsylvania Social Services who knows how this would have turned out.  If someone within Penn State who McQueary approached after he witnessed the truly disgusting act had made a report, Sandusky may have been put away before he could victimize more children.  But these are all ‘ifs’.  The mandatory reporting law is in place to avoid these types of situations.

As I tell the doctors and teachers and other professionals who attend my lectures regarding mandatory reporting, it’s better to be safe than sorry.  It is questionable under Pennsylvania law whether McQueary had a duty to report what he saw to the authorities.  But that does not take away from his moral duty to report what he saw. And I think this applies to McQueary’s superiors as well.  Either way, all of these people cannot shake their head when they hear Sandusky the Monster say delusional things like he did during sentencing.  They helped create that monster, and a thirty-year prison sentence cannot correct all of the harm that they allowed to occur by failing to act.


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