The NCAA’s penalties for the Penn State’s football program send a clear message from the national level that child safety should be put ahead football, winning, and hero worship.
I understand these sanctions seem harsh for the innocent bystanders such as Penn State football fans and players. Sometimes life is unfair. But nothing is as unfair as the harm done to the boys who were on Penn State Football’s watch (and their premises). Glory and money won by leaders while they allowed kids to be abused are ill-gotten gains and do not deserve to be kept. Instead of complaining about the unfairness that their school is facing this adversity, I hope everyone in the Penn State community will use this as an opportunity to make our world a better place and to find their next successes with honor.
The message that the well-being of kids is more important than sports is revolutionary.
I appreciate the courage that the Penn State Trustees showed in commissioning the full investigation by an outside expert, ex-FBI chief Louis Freeh, whose report led the NCAA to set these penalties. I also appreciate that the NCAA did not shut down the Penn State Football program altogether, known as the “death penalty,” as some have suggested. Institutions whose failures of leadership have caused harm need paths to redemption and new ways to earn future glory.
Imagine how different our world would be if other institutions, such as the Catholic Church, school districts, and the film industry had taken similar stands. Instead of trying to cover up and protect their institutions, what if they had faced the problems, accepted the consequences, and used the lessons learned to help protect young people in the future? Think how much suffering and misery would have been prevented!
By moving through this hard situation, Penn State Football, and the University as a whole, can develop a reputation of true excellence built on a foundation of integrity, courage, and safety.
In making a commitment to protect young people from violence, bullying, and abuse, Penn State can eventually earn the title of world-class champions!
(P.S. I hope that the NCAA will also start to enact similar penalties on sports programs that cover up sexual assaults on college students.)
Webinars: Kidpower and PCA (Positive Coaching Alliance) Child Abuse Prevention in Youth Sports
Blog post: What Penn State Football Could Have Learned From Kidpower
Article: Worthy of Trust: What Organizations Need to Do to Protect Children From Harm
Article: Four Strategies for Protecting Kids From Sexual Predators
— Irene van der Zande has been featured as a child safety expert by USA Today, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal and is the author of Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe. She is also the founder of Kidpower.org, a non-profit organization that has helped to protect over two million young people from child abuse, bullying, and abduction since 1989