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Penn State could happen anywhere

November 17, 2011
Salem News

What allegedly happened at Penn State University during a period of several years was so outrageous and horrifying we suspect most people have adopted a "it can't happen here" attitude.

But the more details that emerge from Penn State, the less acceptable that attitude becomes.

Several people, including former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, were aware of allegations an ex-assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, was sexually assaulting children. Yet all seemed content to work "within channels." The one-time intern who reportedly saw Sandusky raping a 10-year-old boy did not intervene to stop the assault. He merely reported it to his superiors.

How could this happen?

In hindsight, as Paterno himself admitted, it should have been stopped years ago. Paterno confessed to a reporter he should have done more about the situation.

Indeed he should have. But so should have several other people. Why didn't they?

This is not about Penn State or about college athletics. It is about a prestigious institution - an arm, in a way, of government - that failed miserably. It is about people children should have been able to trust.

Much more will become known about Sandusky's alleged crimes as investigations and, perhaps, trials proceed. As upsetting as the details will be, they need to be heard - and thought about, carefully and objectively.

Pennsylvanians no doubt didn't think it could happen at Penn State. But it did - and that means it could happen elsewhere.



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