Penn State revisited — another lesson

It seems as though everything that could be said regarding the Penn State scandal has been. What a terrible tragedy. The Washington Post last week shared a powerful (and scathing) review of how various outlets covered the news as it developed. That should be required reading for any press secretary on Capitol Hill or any journalism student. How this story unfolded had millions first reacting negatively that somehow legendary coach Joe Paterno was being fingered as culpable. Only after another few news cycles did it become evident that Paterno knew more than originally believed.

And therein lies the lesson for all leaders in prominent roles: acquiescence in any shape or form today is unacceptable. One can no longer look the other way and expect to get away keeping his or her job.

Paterno should have been fired. And depending to what extent the Hall of Fame coach had knowledge of Sandusky’s criminal behavior, perhaps he deserved more disciplinary action.

Any time children and students are involved, coaches, parents and teachers all have an obligation to be hyper-sensitive to how those minors are being handled.

I hope the Penn State scandal causes every university and athletic director to re-examine their policies on conduct that would otherwise land someone in jail.

Too often today, sins of the past are swept under the rug. Why? Because they occurred so long ago, and therefore seem less significant. Tell that to the parents of those who were sexually assaulted. To read and hear about the actions of these coaches, any reader of this blog would have stepped up and intervened. And yet, that did not happen. Paterno (and others as well) had a MORAL obligation to act.

And when confronted with the option to step in, take action (even after the fact) and to then NOT do so … well, that’s grounds for dismissal in my book, no questions asked.

The same lesson holds true for elected leaders here in Washington. Members are entrusted with the delicate lives of those staffs under them. Yes, they are presumably adults. But to look the other way or let behavior slide is unacceptable. While the letter of the law may or may not have been broken beyond Sandusky's actions, certainly the spirit of the law has.

Coaches such as Paterno must not only root out these deviant kinds of behavior upon hearing of them immediately, they must also today proactively seek out opportunities to send a strong disciplinary message that even the appearance of impropriety will not be tolerated.

Too much is at stake. Too many innocent children will age too quickly if we don't collectively nip this in the bud. Pennsylvania state police commissioner Frank Noonan last week summed it best this way: "Somebody has to question ... the moral requirements for a human being that knows of sexual things that are taking place with a child."