Remember the children

PASADENA
- More than 2,000 miles away from Pasadena, legendary Penn State
football coach Joe Paterno
is mired in a controversy that will forever
tarnish his legacy.

Allegations
have surfaced that Paterno was told about inappropriate behavior
involving a child. The allegation leveled against famed former Penn State Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky, included the phrases “60-year-old man,” “10-year-old boy” and “shower.”

Paterno
didn’t report the actions to the police, but told the athletic
director – questionable given his clout at the school. The
coach, who transformed an agricultural and teachers college into a brand name university via touchdowns, sacks and wins on the football field, could have pressed
officials to call for a full inquiry.

Instead, Paterno opted to merely cover his butt and tell his direct supervisor. But this is Pennsylvania, and in the football-crazed state Paterno’s direct supervisor can be best accessed at church. 

In
the wake of the controversy, there have been calls for Paterno’s
resignation and talk about his tarnished legacy.

Paterno
announced his plan to retire this morning.

What
hasn’t been talked about are the boys.

Little
media attention has been placed on the children. In a scathing column
published this week, Jason Whitlock commented extensively about the
society’s love of institution, status and power. The fetishizing of
such power, often blinds us not just to the indiscretions of the
powerful, but the full impact of their actions.

In
this case, we fret about Paterno’s legacy and what this means for
Penn State football, and say little about the boys now young men who were affected by these acts.

Closer
to home, John Muir High School football coach Ken Howard finds
himself in the midst of a maelstrom of controversy. Howard, who is
not a school employee, was asked to conduct a bag search.

A
verbal exchange between Howard and thew student turned violent.

And
while there is no attempt here to equivocate the two incidents,
questions still remain about whether Howard was out of line in his
harsh treatment of a 16-year-old boy during the bag search.

As
with the Penn State controversy, administration at Muir was also
aware and according to some reports approved the actions which led to
the scuffle between Howard and the student, Erik Rodriguez.

And
the parallels between the two incidents are more than cosmetic.

As
with the Paterno incident, reaction to the Muir scuffle has focused
primarily on Howard and not the systemic breakdown in policies on bag
searches, and who is and who is not allowed to search bags.

But
most importantly, what has been lost is the toll on the children
involved in the incident.

Whether
Howard “roughed up” Rodriguez or not, whether the student
“mouthed off” at Howard, we must remind ourselves that schools
serve as places of education.

And
the focus of the conversation around this issue, as with the
Paterno
incident, should be on the toll both events have taken on the children involved.

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