Tuesday, November 15, 2011

If You See Something, Say Something

The recent events at Penn State involving the child abuse by long-time coach Jerry Sandusky with the apparent knowledge of a number of people on the coaching staff and in the university administration reminded me of my own experience 13 years ago when my daughter had just started kindergarten at a small school. It came to light that the director of the after school program was a pedophile. He was arrested for taking photographs of the boys in the locker room. It subsequently came to light that more was involved. All of the parents received calls that we needed to explain to our children that it would be on the news that night that he was arrested and that he was a pedophile. That would seem to be a pretty tall order for the parent of a kindergartner except that my daughter had already told me that he was a pedophile (not using the term, of course), and I had done nothing about it.

She had told me that Mr. B always had the boys sit on his lap to do their homework. He did not let the girls do that. He was "mean" to them. He would hug the boys and wrestle with them. He would go watch the boys sports practices at 6:00 a.m. every morning even though he wasn't a coach. He would like to be in the locker room. This is classic pedophile behavior.

I did not say anything because quite frankly I had a daughter, so I knew she was not at risk. I also was new to the school and did not want to look like a troublemaker. I was counting on someone else who had been there longer to take care of it. I assumed that if a child in kindergarten could spot the problem that a teacher, parent or administrator could see it too. Apparently not!

When the story broke, it was a media sensation because of the prestige of the school. There was television coverage, and a public meeting was held at which the Commonwealth's Attorney appeared to assure the parents that Mr. B would be locked up forever. School officials and parents spoke one after another about how crafty and sly he was to be able to ingratiate himself into the school community and cover up his pedophile tendencies without anyone knowing. Finally, in frustration, I stood and spoke and told them that that the problem was not how crafty he was but how people who saw something didn't say anything. That would include me. If a kindergarten student saw it. Others surely did too. I should have said something. They should have too! It was silence that allowed him to continue! I have changed a lot in 13 years. Today if I see something, I say something. Everyone should.

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