It is hard not to be shocked by the allegations coming out of State College, Pennsylvania.
Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky has been accused of assaulting 15 young boys, including some who came from his charity The Second Mile. Two school officials at Penn State were arrested on perjury charges for failing to properly report the case to state officials. Penn State President Graham Spanier is under the microscope for his role in the scandal. Finally, Joe Paterno’s career as a football coach could be coming to an end because of his involvement in the case.
These allegations are all disturbing. They will have consequences for all involved. (Not to mention the lives forever impacted by the victims of these alleged abuses.)
Yet, they could have been prevented.
That is what is most disturbing, and frustrating, about this case. All of the alleged abuses could have been prevented had proper boundaries and protocols been put in place. If Penn State officials had boundaries and protocols in place to protect children on campus, it is possible some of these abuses and allegations might have been caught sooner or not happen at all.
So often we think that churches and public schools (K-12) are the only institutions that need boundaries. If there is anything that we can take from the Penn State case is that we all have a responsibility to care for the protection of our children. We each have a moral obligation to provide for the care and safety of children. This is not something for a few, but for all of us. Unfortunately, this is something that officials at Penn State were not concerned about.
What boundaries do is they provide proper limitations for interactions with others, especially children and individuals of the opposite gender. These limitations are for all people. They do not infer that someone beliefs you are capable of doing something wrong. Instead, boundaries are put in place to make sure that everyone is protected and feels safe.
For instance, I have multiple layers of boundaries. I have boundaries when I interact with other females. I have boundaries when I enter into people’s homes. I have boundaries for when I am alone in the church. I have boundaries when I interact with children. I do not feel limited by these boundaries. In fact, they provide comfort and relief. I know that I can have fruitful ministry and interactions and do not feel limited. In fact, I feel better equipped to do what I am called to do as a pastor and leader.
Having proper boundaries is not just something for pastors and teachers, but it is something we must all be concerned about. Each of us should take time to set-up boundaries to provide for the safety of our families and children. As well, all institutions and professions should take time to set up boundaries and protocols for caring and providing safety for their customers. This is something for all of us, and is something that Penn State was not concerned about.
Setting up boundaries and protecting children is a moral obligation that we all have. It is the issue of moral obligation where Spanier and Paterno have failed as leaders. They refused to protect the children. They refused to look into the allegations brought against Sandusky. Their unwillingness to do shows a lack of judgment that is unacceptable.
Paterno should resign as head football coach today during his weekly press conference. He should not return next season. His career as a football coach. This is a sad tragedy that will put a dent on an otherwise brilliant and statesman-like career. Spanier should resign immediately. He cannot be trusted to lead at Penn State. If he is unwilling to resign, he should be fired.
Boundaries are something we should all take into consideration. If you have not, I would suggest looking into materials on how to build proper boundaries. The United Methodist Church has a great program called “Safe Sanctuaries,” which I believe can be applied to the corporate world as well.
Let us make sure that our children are protected and we are doing everything we can to provide for their safety.