If you have been paying attention to the news — or if you have actually talked to someone or seen the Internet this week — you are probably aware of the Penn State University and Joe Paterno scandal. I won’t bore you with the details since we all know them, but I will give a quick synopsis of what’s going on in Happy Valley, PA.
Allegations that a long-term assistant coach and friend to Penn State University — someone who ran football camps for youth — has been charged with several counts of sexual abuse over the course of many years. Reports have now surfaced that coach Joe Paterno knew about these allegations after they originally happened and reported them to the Athletic Director — who in turn handled the situation internally. JoePa has now been fired and people are questioning whether or not he deserved to be fired. Did he do enough by reporting it to his boss, or should he have gone to the authorities?
This is not a moral issue; it’s a legal one. Joe Paterno should have done everything in his power to make sure this man was arrested, charged with a crime, and no longer allowed to be in the presence of children. There is no way Penn State University should have tried to handle this internally. It was a crime and is perhaps the worst type of crime that can be committed.
Society differs with their opinions about a lot of things. Politics, religion, abortion. The sexual abuse of a child is not one of those things that divides people. Everyone agrees that the sexual abuse of children is horrible and that people who commit these heinous crimes should be in prison.
So, what can you as a Camp Director learn from this situation? I will put it in very simple terms that anyone can understand.
AS A CAMP DIRECTOR, YOU CANNOT DEAL WITH ILLEGAL ACTS AGAINST CHILDREN INTERNALLY. YOU NEED TO CONTACT AUTHORITITES IMMEDIATELY.
You, as a Camp Director, are not an expert in criminal investigation. Call the police.
You, as a Camp Director, are not an expert in child psychology. Call the Department of Social Services.
You, as a Camp Director, are not an expert on the legal ramifications that could be put on the camp. Call an attorney.
You need help to navigate this minefield and you and your camp will not come out unscathed. But, covering it up will only make it worse. Everyone who is involved in a cover up will be fired and/or arrested.
If you are worried about how bad your camp will look in the media when the news breaks that there was sexual abuse at your camp, you should not be a Camp Director. You should not be worried about your camper numbers going down or your donations from alumni drying up. You should only be concerned with reporting this to the appropriate authorities, keeping the child in question safe, and making sure it never happens again.
Most of you will never be in this situation because you already have proper training put in place to make sure your counselors know what type of behavior is inappropriate and how to report it. If you do not have some type of Child Abuse Prevention training as part of your staff training you need to get off the Internet right now and implement one. Every single counselor needs to go through proper Child Abuse Prevention training before they ever come in contact with a child at your camp. They then need to be re-trained on these practices again and again.
If for some reason you do not know how to implement a Child Abuse Prevention training into your camp, please email me immediately. I will point you in the right direction to make sure you have the proper trainings put in place to make sure what happened at Penn State University will never happen again.