What We Should Have Learned from the Jerry Sandusky Case

The conviction of Jerry Sandusky on 45 counts of sexual abuse ought to send a collective chill down the spines of every parent, educator, coach, and school administrator — everywhere.

Convicted of sexually assaulting 10 boys, prosecutors said Sandusky used the Second Mile charity, which he ostensibly founded to provide social services to at-risk youth, to target boys to groom and abuse.

As the “beloved” Penn State assistant football coach, he committed indiscretions in locker room showers, hotel rooms and in his own home. In a strange twist, shortly after the case went to the jury, lawyers for Sandusky’s adopted son, Matt, said Matt had been prepared to testify that his father had abused him.

The 68-year-old Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life in jail, but what about all the rest of us who didn’t see, didn’t hear, or didn’t believe a child?

When the scandal broke, Penn State fired its president, Graham Spanier, as well as its legendary coach, Joe Paterno, who was Sandusky’s mentor and boss. Two other university officials were also fired and charged with perjury and failing to report suspected child abuse. And the university hired former FBI director Louis Freeh to do an investigation, trained employees in recognizing and reporting child abuse, and enunciated a new policy on the responsibilities of staff in this area.

There have been passionate outcries to reform child abuse laws in Pennsylvania and other states. There is no doubt that laws and policies need to be strengthened, but that is only part of the problem and it is not enough to stop the scourge of child sex abuse. In the last few weeks, allegations surfaced about ongoing sex abuse of students at the prestigious Horace Mann School in Riverdale, NY, and just this week, Tek Young Lin, a retired – and revered — teacher, admitted that he had sex with several of his students there.

Lest we think this is just about Penn State and Jerry Sandusky, or the Catholic Church or the Horace Mann School, it’s not.  It’s about all of our schools, all of our social and religious organizations, all of our athletic teams, all of our children, and particularly all of us. As parents and educators, we have to stop being reverent, diffident and polite, and learn to be vigilant in regard to children’s welfare and safety. That means having our antennae go up when there are certain signs.

  • If someone is too good to be true, think twice. Just why would another adult want to take your child home for overnight stays?
  • When a child doesn’t want to be in a particular situation or with a certain individual, there’s usually a good reason. Take the child seriously.
  • It’s also possible that a child might be afraid to admit that a trusted adult is doing something that just doesn’t feel right. Both educators and parents need to be alert to subtle signs, as well as talking to children about good and bad touching.
  • Just because someone is affable and charismatic, doesn’t mean he has character or integrity. Sociopaths can be very charming.
  • When children describe sexual encounters, they are either experiencing something or getting this information from someone else who did. Don’t dismiss it as imagination.
  • Hold school, sports, church, club, and Child Protective Services personnel responsible for following up on any reports you make, whether you are a parent or a colleague. Don’t drop the ball if you have suspicions.
  • Nepotism and favoritism is a breeding ground for looking the other way. That’s what happened at Penn State. How can anyone properly supervise, let alone discipline, friends and family members? Parents and taxpayers have a right to know whether there are similar “old boys’ clubs” in their schools, financed with public money.
  • Parents have the right to expect — and demand, if necessary — that their children are safe at school and at after-school programs.

The light is shining brightly on this problem, which sadly is not isolated to one school or one institution. It is everyone’s responsibility to put an end to this plague of child sexual abuse. The antidote is certainly more awareness and watchfulness, and more care and caution. This week’s outrage needs to be harnessed into action that results in the ongoing protection of our children’s welfare.



Bad Parenting Gone Viral

It has now been two weeks since Tommy Jordan became famous by shooting his 15-year-old daughter’s laptop and posting the video on YouTube and Facebook. His actions came after his daughter Hannah posted a message on her Facebook page complaining that she was tired of picking up after her dad and that she should be paid for her chores.

The video has been viewed 26 million times on YouTube and tens of thousands of times on Facebook. As a parent and an educator, I am incredulous at the overwhelmingly positive response Jordan has received from parents across the country.  For example, NBC’s “Today” polled viewers on the incident and reported that 74 percent agreed with Jordan’s actions.

I’m glad that Child Protective Services and the police paid him visits, but it has been alleged that the social worker merely reviewed parenting tips with him and that the police officer congratulated him.

While Jordan believes his daughter has not been hurt or scarred by his public display, a majority of those who participated in a Mashable poll believe Hannah will continue to be resentful. 

What’s wrong with Jordan’s actions?

  1. He is the parent, the adult in the situation. He acted out of anger and rage, which makes him a poor role model.
  2.  He publicly humiliated his daughter, never a good way to start a conversation or teach a lesson.
  3. He used a GUN! When his anger gets out of control again, what will stop him from shooting a person next time? He apparently made no effort to understand where his daughter was coming from. 
  4. A child of divorce, she had only come to live with him and her stepmother six months ago. Of course, there were issues. Before he resorted to violence, how about a little counseling?
  5. Teenagers are notoriously rebellious, and often disrespectful. A parent does not teach respect by being disrespectful to his child. Respect is a two-way street. By embarrassing his child in front of the whole world, he cannot expect her to respect him.
  6. The “when I was your age” argument does not resonate with adolescents. It’s meaningless. Anyway, there was no Facebook, YouTube or laptop when Jordan was Hannah’s age, so maybe he would have had to sit down with his daughter and have a heart-to-heart conversation.  

What should Jordan have done in a private conversation with Hannah?

1.    He should have used an “I” message with the focus on understanding Hannah’s feelings and expressing his own. He should have said to her: “I have tried to be a good father to you, spending time and money on fixing your laptop, and I feel deeply hurt and insulted that you would complain about me to your friends on Facebook. What were you thinking?”

2.    He should have described how and why her Facebook message upset him.

3.    He should have actively listened to what she had to say, and then summarized, paraphrased, questioned, and brainstormed solutions with her.

4.    He and his daughter might then have come to a solution that met both their needs. It’s not about right or wrong, but about understanding and respect. And if you’re a parent, your job is to help your child learn and grow.

5.    If the situation had gone too far — which it likely did — he should have brought additional people into the discussion. Not 26 million YouTube viewers, but a counselor, a clergyperson, or an objective and impartial relative or friend.

Police visit Facebook dad who shot daughter’s laptop – CNET News
URL: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-57376595-71/police-visit-facebook-dad-who-shot-daughters-laptop/