Posts Tagged ‘ Penn State scandal ’

Penn State To Host Conference On Child Trauma Research, Prevention, And Treatment

Friday, August 31st, 2012

While the magnitude of the Penn State scandal has been recognized by many (including this author), it is important to also understand how the university is taking positive steps to be proactive with respect to supporting efforts aimed at prevention of child trauma. With that in mind, it is worth noting that the university will be hosting a conference in State College, PA, on October 29-30, 2012, which will convene a variety of experts to discuss research, prevention, and treatment. 

Notably, this conference will feature discussions with two very prominent individuals who have suffered sexual abuse as children: Elizabeth Smart and Sugar Ray Leonard. It will also bring expertise from academia to inform on current issues with respect to prevention and treatment.

For those in the area who might be interested in attending, information on registration (and more details about the conference) can be found here.

Research supporting child development – including prevention and treatment studies – have long been a tradition at Penn State. This conference will not only bring together experts but also remind us of the very real contributions that Penn State faculty have made (and continue to make) in support of children, including those who have suffered trauma.

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The Penn State Sanctions: Respecting Kids’ Rights Above All Else

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

This week the NCAA levied unprecedented sanctions against the Penn State football program in the wake of the Sandusky scandal. If you don’t follow college football closely, suffice it to say that the NCAA is putting in provisions that will create a substantial overhaul of Penn State football that will unfold over a number of years. 

The magnitude of these actions – which can be seen as being both punitive and corrective – have been debated some, but the reality is that Penn State accepted them without a fight. It’s clear that the “egregious” (that seems to be the word of choice, and appropriately so) nature of the acts and the lack of an effective checks and balances system at Penn State that covered up these acts (and failed to prevent future ones as well) left no choice but to require a major overhaul of the program and its relation to the university.

For me, this is an important moment in college sports, in that it is making the strong statement that they are putting kids first. You can read here the news release from the NCAA that highlighted why they took such strong actions. But I’ll cite here one quote that sums it up:

“As the individuals charged with governing college sports, we have a responsibility to act. These events should serve as a call to every single school and athletics department to take an honest look at its campus environment and eradicate the ‘sports are king’ mindset that can so dramatically cloud the judgment of educators.”

There are certainly many uninvolved people – especially current student athletes – who are negatively affected by the sanctions. But the magnitude of the failure of the athletic and administrative officers in the past require that the program be rebuilt slowly and with resolve to, first and foremost, honor the responsibility of respecting kids’ rights above all else – and having an effective structure in place to make sure this happens.

When I look back at my graduate days at Penn State, I remember working with world-class professors and researchers. I remember being challenged and nurtured to grow as a professional and as a person. I remember there being checks and balances in place to make sure I completed my academic requirements properly. And I know that if my behavior violated basic ethical principles, that would not have been tolerated.

In a prior blog post, I suggested that we parents can take from this scandal the need to cultivate informed trust with individuals and institutions who are responsible for nurturing our children. I think these sanctions echo that sentiment and provide an opportunity to make sure that principle becomes central to the football program at Penn State.

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Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Two of my most recent posts have focused on sexual harassment in the peer world and the Penn State scandal. As such, it is especially timely that the AmberWatch Foundation has launched both a new website ( and an interactive TV channel (available to Cablevision subscribers) with lots of content to help keep kids safe.

I’d like to highlight some of the specific topics that are covered on the website. These include:

  • cyberbullying
  • sexting
  • social networks
  • predators

You can find information to help you get informed as a parent, and tips to help you keep your kids protected. Keep in mind that the AmberWatch Foundation’s self-stated mission is “to provide educational programs and innovative technologies that proactively and preemptively protect children against abduction, predators, and the dangers of the digital world.”

As I’ve stated before, we don’t want to make our children afraid of the world. But we do want them to be aware of bad or dangerous situations if they encounter them. So in this spirit the tools offered by the AmberWatch foundation can be very useful for parents, particularly if they use them as platforms for communicating with their children.


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The Penn State Scandal: What’s A Parent To Think And Do?

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

As the details surrounding the Penn State scandal continue to emerge, I’ve been wrestling (both as a professional and as a parent) to make sense of it all. What weighs most heavily on my mind is that this is a situation where all parents must feel violated to some degree. Repeated sexual abuse of young boys happened at a terrific university, under the watch of a revered coach who was known for his moral standards as much as his winning program. Esteemed members of the university are accused of not acting on information and not trying to prevent further harm to youth. This seems surreal – State College is a very pleasant town, to the extent that people near and far refer to the area as “Happy Valley.” I know all of this first-hand, as I spent four years at Penn State pursuing and receiving my doctoral degree.

What are we to think and do when our most trusted people and institutions haven’t done the right thing? As parents, we go out of our way to place children in safe situations. If a child has an opportunity to spend time with professionals we admire and trust, a parent is going to think that this is a great thing. And if a child is troubled, we’d be delighted that an organization run by someone we believe to be trustworthy would be there to take an interest. 

To me, the real scandal here is that trusted figures did not do what they should have done when one of their own committed unthinkable acts. It’s difficult to admit, but the reality is that there are people in the world who do bad things to kids. They’re out there, and we parents don’t have the ability to follow our kids every second of the day. That said, part of what we do is put our trust in institutions rather than just one person – it’s not perfect, but it’s probably the best we can do. And when we learn about something like the Penn State scandal – when we find out that the most trusted individuals in the highest leadership positions did not do what they should have done to protect children – our faith is shaken.

Where does this leave us as parents? I don’t want to start doubting the trustworthiness of my child’s school. I don’t want to run criminal checks on her teachers, coaches, instructors, and other adults in her life. I don’t want to discourage her from experiencing the world or make her afraid of adults. But I do think I need to convey – as a parent speaking to my child – that although we trust all the adults in our world, and we respect them, if you ever feel that an adult is not treating you right, or is making you feel uncomfortable, or is doing anything you think is weird or unusual, you need to get yourself away from that adult. Immediately. You can trust your parents to go to the right people at the institutional level, and we will assume that they will handle it rapidly and professionally. But if for some reason they don’t, your parents will do everything they need to do to make sure you – and other children – remain safe. You can, and should, always trust your parents.



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