Learning from Penn State

As a parent of a 15-year-old, I am stricken by the media coverage and its focus. In my eyes, this is not a football story; it is a story of adults who had a duty to protect children and did not. Period. The haze of football has clouded the minds and judgment of so many — be it those at Penn State who flunked their obligation to the most vulnerable amongst us or those who watch from home and offer a few too many excuses.

One has to wonder what this tragedy would look like if it were not Penn State football. What if it were the Penn State tennis or lacrosse programs? What if this happened to young girls in an award-winning dance academy? Would there be public debate over the firing of a dance teacher who knew of child rape for nine years and never called the police?

Without the overwhelming devotion that millions share for Penn State football, the narrative of this story would be what it should have been the entire time: a shocking, despicable child sex-abuse story resulting in a massive cover-up thanks to the adults that turned a blind eye.

Make no mistake, I share the incredible pride in my Penn State education and experience that so many alumnae have. It was there that I earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree before working as a recruiter for five years. There is, however, a marked difference between school spirit and blind allegiance to a singular athletic department that enabled criminal behavior against children.

I am encouraged by the efforts of state representatives Kevin Boyle and Louise Williams Bishop, who have introduced legislation that strengthens

reporting laws that allowed some at the college to technically obey the law while avoiding their moral and human obligation. This week, I introduced legislation that would ensure any city employee who is convicted of committing sexual offenses against minors will be disqualified from receiving their retirement and pension benefits.

Although we operate with presumption of innocence, I join a growing chorus of Pennsylvanians that are outraged by the prospect of Coach Sandusky continuing to collect a $58,000 annual taxpayer-funded pension even if convicted.

In the end, I hope we all use this tragedy to look within and prioritize what is most important in this life: the health and safety of our children.

– Blondell Reynolds Brown is a Philadelphia councilwoman at large. She was re-elected this month to a fourth term.

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