Archive for Friday, November 11, 2011

Mandatory reporting of child abuse is obligation not to be taken lightly

Joe Paterno was forced out as coach of the Penn State football team following a child sex abuse scandal involving one of his former assistants. In Kansas, the responsibility to report such abuse falls on many people.

Joe Paterno was forced out as coach of the Penn State football team following a child sex abuse scandal involving one of his former assistants. In Kansas, the responsibility to report such abuse falls on many people.

November 11, 2011


In all the questions swirling around the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State, one stands out: How could such high-level officials suspect sexual abuse was occurring and not report it?

The question is both a legal and moral one.

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is accused of sexually abusing or molesting eight boys. But what really caught the media’s attention was an incident in 2002 where a Penn State graduate assistant allegedly witnessed a sexual act between Sandusky and a 10-year-old boy in the football locker room showers. He reported that incident to legendary coach Joe Paterno, who reported it to Athletic Director Tim Curley. They and other university officials never reported the incident to authorities.

Even for someone who has seen as many child sex abuse cases as Douglas County chief assistant district attorney Amy McGowan, the information from the grand jury’s report that detailed the allegations was shocking.

“The first question is how could it go on and no one do anything about it,” she said.

The scenario at Penn State reminds McGowan of the scandal of sexual abuse that continues to rock the Catholic Church.

“Much like the Catholic Church, they didn’t want to believe it was happening, they didn’t want their reputation to be sullied,” McGowan said.

McGowan, who handles many of the district’s sex crime cases, knows that people’s immediate impulse is to believe the sexual abuse is not happening. And often they are afraid of the repercussions of reporting it.

“People are really afraid of a witch hunt kind of deal. They know if they report accusations that are valid it can change people’s lives and have a long-lasting effect. Adults know when I pick up that phone and make the call, this is what can happen,” McGowan said. “What I say ... (is) err on the side of caution for the protection of the child.”

In Kansas, state law requires people in certain kinds of professions to report child sexual abuse to the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. The list of mandatory reporters is a long one and focuses mainly on those who commonly come in contact with children.

“It’s designed to make sure that those who have the most contact with children, who are the likely ones to see the potential for abuse and neglect, report it,” SRS Secretary Rob Siedlecki said.

It includes doctors, nurses, dentists, optometrists, psychologists, social workers, therapists, counselors, teachers, school administrators, other school employees where the child attends, child care providers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency responders, court services officers, case managers and mediators.

While it’s clear that those working in schools are required to report child sexual abuse in Kansas, universities are in a grayer area.

Siedlecki said all academic institutions would fall under the mandated reporting law. But in a statement issued Thursday, Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the state’s mandatory reporting law doesn’t cover institutions of higher education. However, she stated KU is examining changes to its policies that would “codify that responsibility for our employees.”

Mandated reporting is even required for instances that usually fall under confidentiality agreements, such as those between a doctor and patient.

“You have to do it. The law makes you do it. So you are not going to be worried about other oaths or ethics or professionalism. It’s all about the protection of the child,” McGowan said.

Being a mandated reporter also means you don’t get the chance to do an investigation of your own before calling SRS. That’s what trained professionals are for, McGowan said.

Those who are mandated by law to report child sexual abuse and fail to do so could be charged with a misdemeanor, which comes with a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail. The firing of Paterno and other top university officials at Penn State drives home just how serious this law is, Siedlecki said.

“It will prompt people to know if you don’t report something and follow up you could face serious penalties, including losing your job and prosecution,” Siedlecki said.

SRS has a 24-hour hot line (1-800-922-5330) for child abuse reports. Once SRS gets a report, its goal is to have an initial written assessment within the next half working day. Those are calls SRS takes seriously, Siedlecki said.

“Every adult has an obligation to prevent child abuse. While protecting the child is part of the mission of SRS, preventing child abuse and neglect is part of everyone’s responsibility,” Siedlecki said. “No child deserves to be put through the trauma like they were in Pennsylvania.”


none2 3 years, 11 months ago

What shocks me the most about this scandal is the graduate student. The stories have changed from the particular act that happend, but the fact is this graduate student SAW whatever it was that was happening. Did he try to stop it? Did he yell at the pedo to stop? Did he ask the boy where his father was? Did he call for help? No, he thought he should leave and talk to his dad about what to do. Is he lacking in gray matter?

Does this graduate student (I assume an adult possibly over 21 [not just over 18]), not think for himself? Why doesn't this graduate student get more flack for his actions? Did he think sex between an old man and a 10 year old was concentual? If he had seen a woman get raped in the locker room, would he have to consult with his dad first before knowing what to do? Was he fearful for his own life and safety? Perhaps he saw a gun or knife in the shower?

I'm not excusing the people further up the chain not doing more. I simply think that this grad student should get a lot more blame than the media is saying he is getting.

Sex isn't easy to talk about for MOST people. Add that taboo sex, and we all like to think it doesn't happen. So I could see as more people hear the story it would get diluted. Now if it had been two 10 year olds (no old pedo), I could see where it might be difficult to know what to do -- assuming it "appears" to be concentual. However, here we are not talking about two kids at all, but a very, very sick man and a boy.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 11 months ago

Hopefully, the grad student will get more than "flack." He should be prosecuted along with anyone else who knew about it and failed to report it.

Only then will people in such situations realize that protecting the good ole' boy network they hope to build a career in comes with too high a cost.

nixon00 3 years, 11 months ago

Thank you! I completely agree with you. How do you walk in on a 10 year old being raped and not try and stop it?! I think he should also serve time. Just think how many children he would have saved by doing the right thing. I think they all should serve time. Everyone from Penn State adminstration, the wife and to the charity organization who even after being told by two mothers of the abuse they still allowed this monster to be around children. We have a resposibility to protect our children and everyone has failed these poor boys. Now it's time for us all to step up and say "No longer will we tollerate this!" I say harsh punishment for sexual abuse and harsher punishment for those who turn a blind eye to it.

Alceste 3 years, 11 months ago

That's the brown nosing world of academia: Show up and shut up. The graduate assistant knew that by dropping that dime, said graduate assistant could forget about any "career" in the "hallowed halls of academia". Compounding the matter is the reality that the scene witnessed involved a member of the "sports community". An even more sacred sacred cow. Report and have it spinned such that YOU'RE the person having sex with a child.

Nah....all this stuff is a metaphor for how the world of academia isn't academic at's a world full of head bobbing "Pay me First and Most" egoists.

It's darkly amusing that this Lion Amongst Sporting Coaches goes out a bum. Good riddance and let all take the time to realize college sports gets a FREE RIDE in most matters involving law enforcement.

parco814 3 years, 11 months ago

Wrong--it's the brown nosing world of the Penn State football program. In academia, faculty and staff are generally far more conscientious about these crimes. Their conscientiousness is labeled "political correctness" by ignoramuses.

Jim Williamson 3 years, 11 months ago

Wrong -- it's the brown nosing world of big-time college athletics at all schools. This same thing could happen at any D1 school in the country. Circle the wagons, we'll take care of it in-house. Tell your coaches, tell an administrator, but for God's sake, don't tell a cop.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 11 months ago

Yep-- and that's why Mangino got away with his abusive behavior for so long.

Alceste 3 years, 11 months ago

Oh hell with academic was sold down the river for "politcal correctness"......

Amy Heeter 3 years, 11 months ago

There is a moral obligation to report abuse. Few people will meet this standard if they risk losing somethingas a result of reporting. Such inaction in my opinion makes the silent just as guilty as the perpetrators.

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 11 months ago

Stop the presses! For once I agree with artichokeheart! The world is coming to an end! (Anybody see any dogs and cats living together?)

JM Andy 3 years, 11 months ago

College athletics have nothing to do with learning or academics. The power and corruption behind these money machines needs to stop. And yes, I know that will most likely never happen.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 11 months ago

This has absolutely nothing to do with "government." To the contrary, big-time college sports are a poster child of what happens when government is co-opted and corrupted by the private interests you so idolize.

If the grad student had gone to the police, he would have killed any chance of a career in big-time college sports. And if he had been an intern at Exxon, and saw a VP raping someone, he'd have precisely the same incentive to keep his trap shut in order to maintain his career path up the corporate ladder.

northtowngrl 3 years, 11 months ago

That's just stupid FalseHope, Yes in this one instance it happened at a government institution. However there have been countless and I mean countless documented instances that have happened in Catholic churches across the country. This is a sick, power issue. Happens anywhere. Quit trying to blame the government for everything in life. It just doesn't hold up and it makes you look like a whiner.

parco814 3 years, 11 months ago

And what doesn't shock us is that you'll twist this crime and this tragedy into another excuse to trash government. Don't even dream of focusing on the real problem--the formerly sacred Penn State football program that rakes in tens of millions of dollars while academics go begging. Those institutions that do have zero tolerance policies for sexual harassment and assault are regularly dismissed as examples of "PC fascism" by folks like you. What's worse is that you mention the police, because in your government-hating world, there wouldn't be the funding to support public safety personnel.

newmedia 3 years, 11 months ago

In addition to the prosecution to the maximum of the law for those involved in these heinous crimes, Penn State football should also probably receive the NCAA death penalty.

Carol Braden 3 years, 11 months ago

Kansas child abuse reporting law (K.S.A. 38-2223) states mandated reporters include: teachers, school administrators or other employees of an educational institution which the child is attending. If children attend a sports camp sponsored by the university, then the instructors and employees at that camp are mandated reporters. I believe there are many sports camps that children attend at KU. In addition, the university also houses preschools and day care. Those teachers and employees are mandated reporters. Moreover, any person witnessing a crime is required by law to report that crime to law enforcement. (Sorry, I don't have the specifics on that law - pretty much common sense anyway). Here's the link to the the Guide to Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect in Kansas:

Phillbert 3 years, 11 months ago

KSA 38-2202: Definitions (i) "Educational institution" means all schools at the elementary and secondary levels.

But it sounds like KU is going to make that apply to it as well, which is good.

George Lippencott 3 years, 11 months ago

"Moreover, any person witnessing a crime is required by law to report that crime to law enforcement. (Sorry, I don't have the specifics on that law - pretty much common sense anyway). "

I am not so sure of that. Perhaps a reference. I suspect a broad intrepretaion of that would make hakf or more of KU students criminals.

William McCauley 3 years, 11 months ago

911 dispatch do you need help? Yes we need medical squad here in the penn state locker rooms some old guy slipped and fell in the showers and he is bleeding to death, better hurry!

ER report: Broken face, broken arms, broken legs, castration cuts (must been glass in there) two black eyes, broken fingers and black and blue over 90% of body, on life support .......

Adrienne Sanders 3 years, 11 months ago

It is so, so pathetic that this needs to be made legally mandatory. And disgusting that anyone who calls themselves a human being could fail to report it and still live with themselves.

hail2oldku 3 years, 11 months ago

To hell with the GradAss, my furor is directed at the district attorney who let Sandusky off the hook in 1998 and at the PSU administration that allowed him to walk away unscathed AND allowed him access to the school facilities. That's an additional 4 years of abusing children BEFORE McQuery failed to do anything more than report the man to his superiors.

grammaddy 3 years, 11 months ago

Penn State deserves what ever comes next. What if it were your child? Where is the humanity?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 11 months ago

I haven't heard it proposed yet, but aside from prosecutions what may be the most appropriate action to discourage such silence in the face of criminal activities would be to levy the "death sentence" to Penn State's football program for several years. Players currently on scholarship could either stay and retain their scholarships and finish their degrees, or be allowed to immediately transfer.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 11 months ago

It would be best if Penn State self imposed that penalty. The University of San Francisco did it a number of years ago with it's basketball program. They only brought the program back after a number of years. (A program by the way that produced Bill Russell and now has ex-K.U. Rex Walters as it's head coach). Having a death penalty imposed on you doesn't exhibit the clear moral outrage that a self imposed penalty would. Penn State officials could say they'll reassess the death penalty in a decade.

grammaddy 3 years, 11 months ago

Any time the coach leaves the players have the option to leave without penalty also. Id be ashamed and embarrassed to be enrolled there.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 11 months ago

I don't think that's true. The scholarship agreement is with the athletic department, not the coach, and they have to grant a release before the player can transfer without having to sit out for a year.

That happened at K-State when Huggins left after one year. Players who signed a letter of intent, or had a scholarship, were held to those agreements.

northtowngrl 3 years, 11 months ago

I don't think its anytime a coach leaves, but if the school gets the death penalty or other really strict sanctions, the NCAA will waive the sit out rule and all the players will be up for grabs so any other coach can go after them. That is what happened when SMU got the death penalty in what 87 or so. As soon as it was announced coaches started camping out at the school and picking up players. Those players started fresh with new scholarships as if they were new freshmen.

opinion 3 years, 11 months ago

While I agree with the calls for stiff punishment for those individuals involved, not sure the program should suffer. Really not football related. If someone should happen to dig up some egregious offense by say, a professor in the KU Business School, would we say "shut down the program for a few years"?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 11 months ago

Let's be honest here. The coverup was about money. Those who looked the other way did so because they feared that it would damage the reputation of the football program (rightly so) and potentially cost the athletic department $millions in lost revenues.

Every other major sports team in the country is in a similar situation. Eliminating Penn State's program for a few years would be the best way to send the message that such egregious behavior comes with a high cost.

And, yes, if something comparable happened in the business school, I'd suggest the same thing, although such schools are different enough beasts from athletic programs that I don't see that happening.

opinion 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm always honest. ;^) After re-reading your post, I see more clearly where your comment was coming from. If we were talking only about the acts of Joe and below, negligence and moral failure (at the least), I stand by my statement that the program should not be punished. But since this involves others up the chain and their act is one of cover-up, then I see your point and concur.

I will however caution that your opinion of the moral/ethical/... standing of other organizations is exactly how these things can happen. Anytime someone says "I don't see that happening here", you're in trouble. We are all just a set of circumstances away from acts we never thought we could commit.

Irenaku 3 years, 11 months ago

Follow the dollar signs. Money makes people do stupid and evil things. It's all about the money. And I woud like to add that if I were a parent of one of the students who had protested the firing of their coach, I would be hanging my head in shame.

Jayhawk1958 3 years, 11 months ago

"Follow the dollar signs. Money makes people do stupid and evil things. It's all about the money."

Bingo! And we have a winner.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 11 months ago

Accusations have been made, charges have been filed, investigations are on-going.

BUT.....No hearings have been held. No evidence or testimony has been verified. No one has been tried and convicted.

What ever happened to "innocent until proven guilty??? This is a knee-jerk reaction by paniced and frightened officials that are covering their backsides.

Lives have been destroyed to heresay, and "eyewitness reports" which have been proven over and over again to be somewhat problematic resulting in the fraudulant conviction of innocent persons.

Is this true justice?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 11 months ago

I stick to my original post. NO ONE has been tried in a court of law and convicted. People have been destroyed by a lynch mob in the media and with frightened university officials. Vigilante and street corner justice is not the way we are supposed to do things in America. Of course the inclusion of the incendiary three letter word "s&x" verifies a lot of overreaction, hysteria and other inappropriate responses to "accusations"

Jack Martin 3 years, 11 months ago

FYI - The statement from Chancellor Gray-Little was taken from this message she sent yesterday to all KU faculty, staff and students:

Our duty to our community

Dear KU Community,

The shocking allegations of abuse at Penn State serve as a reminder to us all of the importance of reporting crimes and other offenses to the proper authorities, including law enforcement.

Beyond any legal responsibilities, we each have a moral obligation to look out for the safety of the other members of our community, especially when they are children.

The state’s mandatory reporting law does not cover institutions of higher education, but we are examining changes to KU’s own policies which would codify that responsibility for our employees.

Again, it is our duty as human beings to immediately report to police any abuse or sexual assault of a child, including reports you receive from others.

This page lists a number of different resources available to members of our community. Please utilize these resources if you or someone you know needs help.


Bernadette Gray-Little Chancellor

(The page referred to in the last paragraph is here:

beebo 3 years, 11 months ago

Covering up, forcing retirement in exchange for silence, looking the other way for more than a DECADE, all in the name of preserving an 'institution', i.e. PSU or 'JoePa' (take your pick)- - - - what comes around, goes around. It always does. The real tragedy is all of the children whose innocence was destroyed in the mean time......truly sickening and unforgiveable. Sandusky - the personification of 'evil'......

JustNoticed 3 years, 11 months ago

And can we please drop "legendary" from every first mention of the coach? I mean, did you study at the Hackneyed School of Journalism or what?

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 11 months ago

"Siedlecki said all academic institutions would fall under the mandated reporting law."

It seems pretty clear that this is not actually the case. Granted, it also seems pretty clear that Mr. Siedlecki believes he is the law, not whatever the statutes say.

It is ironic that Kansas has a governor who comes from the legislative branch in DC but is bound and determined to run Kansas by executive fiat.

JustNoticed 3 years, 11 months ago

He's probably just winging it - being thoroughly unqualified for anything else.

Alceste 3 years, 11 months ago

One has to wonder.....were any of these other instances reported by the child to a parent or other adult? How could so many instances go on and it never reach the desks of an investigatory agency.....or were they and they did reach a desk....but any investigation was quashed?

What's this, above, from Made_in_ China " Interesting that this prosecutor, who would supposedly put his own mother in jail, died under mysterious circumstances and his body was never found. Apparently his laptop was, without the hard drive...." Cover-ups? Years of sexual abuse? Where?....all in the football "team's" shower facility? Good grief.....

Lisa Rasor 3 years, 11 months ago

Sadly, reporting it to his superiors was all McQueary needed to do to comply with the law in Pennsylvania.

Of course, he should have done more. But apparently he did not have the moral courage to do the right thing. Or he was despicable enough to trade his silence for a full-time job offer. I don't know. But he should resign or be fired, just like the others involved in this.

pace 3 years, 11 months ago

Child abuse, report it. In Ks if the abuse hot line 1-800-922-5330 if busy, call Brownback direct. His cuts hurt kids.

Alceste 3 years, 11 months ago

Thank you for the data, Made_in_China.

However, perhaps I was being a bit too obtuse in my rhetorical question. It's my belief there WERE other reports, and a string of them....that the children DID tell and yet said "telling" didn't generate much.

Now, What Richard Wexler states below is 150% accurate: "Child sexual abuse" gets more press than wars. Witchhunts do and HAVE happened and have destroyed lives due to the industry which is built around "perpetrators" and "victims". Police and prosecutors frequently suck in social service staff people as "mini-police" because social service staff aren't required to Mirandize and can ask any manner of non-sense during an "interview" that prosecutors and police cannot under the law. It isn't just the accused who get the shaft.....the constant interrogation of children by "the industry" to "get the bad guy" ("We know he/she's we need to get the evidence. Put words in that kids mouth and get the kid to finger that "bad guy", etc......) ruins the lives of children moreso than the sexual acts themselves.

Irrespective, something's mighty strange about this prosecutor disappearing....along with a hard drive......mighty peculiar......

rwexler648 3 years, 11 months ago

People who have reasonable cause to suspect abuse should report it. But the key word is reasonable. In contrast, there is no phrase in the child welfare lexicon that has done more harm to children than “err on the side of caution for the protection of the child.”

It’s led to the traumatizing of thousands of children through needless interrogations and stripsearches by workers for agencies like SRS. Even worse it’s led to needless consignment of many children of the chaos of foster care. Worse still, it overloads workers with false reports, leaving them less time to find children in real danger.

The reason people are afraid of witchhunts is because there have, in fact, been witchhunts concerning child sexual abuse – the McMartin Preschool case being the most notorious example.

There is much more on this, and on how the wrong response to the Penn State scandal will make everything worse. on our Child Welfare Blog,

Richard Wexler Executive Director National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

verity 3 years, 11 months ago

I know of at least one church that is teaching the children in Sunday School how to react to inappropriate behavior, including using role playing. The children were also told to pick three adults as "safe" people that they could talk to if they were concerned about anything that happened to them. Don't know if this is happening in the schools, but it certainly should be.

One interesting thing was that in the role playing the children had trouble saying no when the "abuser" was someone they knew.

beatrice 3 years, 11 months ago

Reporting this to police -- after he stop it from continuing -- should have been done by the grad student who witnessed it. Any other report from others would be hearsay.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 11 months ago

Alceste, I am glad that you are one sane voice in all this furor. I have stated from the very beginning that this whole sordid affair started by the mention of the incendiary and volcanic word "s&x" has the very definate and troubling smell of dead fish. The media lynch mob and tabloid effect on supposedly sane college officials is very troubling and disturbing. No one has been convicted of anything and yet the axes are falling from paniced and frightened alleged "officals" and Penn State University.

beatrice 3 years, 11 months ago

Okay, but let me ask you this -- would you let Sandusky baby sit your children? O.J. Simpson was found not guilty, so you would be okay with him dating your daughter? I recognize that this is extreme, but it gets to the heart of the matter. Employers do not need to wait for a court decision in order to act. Sworn statements are enough to take action. How many people get fired from their job for stealing without ever being convicted of stealing? The university is not a court of law and they do not need to base their actions according to conviction results.

That said, I do think that the coach only heard about the actions of his assistant coach. Had he seen the actions take place and done nothing, then he would deserve to not only be fired but possibly sent to prison. He didn't. In my opinion, which is based on a very basic knowledge of what happened, he shouldn't have been fired. We are not our brother's keeper, as it were. The responsibility lies on the assistant coach who committed the act and the grad student for not stopping it and calling the police immediately.

Alceste 3 years, 11 months ago


Please don't leave out Richard Wexler (post above) of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform which may be read about at

Mr. Wexler underscores the witchunt process that is the NORM for this stuff.

Above all, please, remember that all this simply appeals to peoples' prurient interest. They can't trouble themselves with facts or data or's for more FUN to convict in the Court of Public Opinon and lynch. spit

Still, there ARE a LOT of unanswered.....not to mention "UNASKED" questions with this tawdry affair. Could such a "cover up" and specious action occur right here in Lawrence and perpetrated by the University of Kansas? Yessireebobcat tail....and it probably has.....perhaps not with children....but most certainly with the participation of tarts for recruits and a "boys' night out"....not to mention the "sports groupies" who proliferate these here parts........

maryanderson 3 years, 11 months ago

This thread alone shows how these cases can become the above mentioned witch hunt. The very first and most predominant theme has been additional calls for prosecution against additional people. Now I have not been following this case or know any particulars but you are talking about a moment in time without any consideration of where this guys head was; did he even realize at the time what was going on or realize later. What options were available to him and what threats (including political threats) to him? I'd also point out that grad students are usually very young and inexperienced and if the manual says report to so-n-so, then they tend to follow that. Finally, you're hypothetical in what would have happened if student had acted differently and holding him responsible.

But regardless then some of you sure sound like you're moving the bar from it a crime to not report a crime you witness, to you're an accomplice if you don't stop a crime from happening.

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