Coaches are Mandated Reporters

Posted: September 11, 2014 in HRLax, Updates to "A Lacrosse Story?", US Lacrosse
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This is the first in a multipart series of articles related to actual cases involving the reporting of suspected sexual abuse in Virginia. It is also important to note it was the events at Penn State and the alleged cover-up that made it’s way into the headlines everyday and continued until June of 2012 when Jerry Sandusky was found guilty on 45 counts of sexual abuse stemming back to 1998.

In November of 2011, Joe Paterno, America’s most well known college football coach was fired by Penn State after the indictments against Sandusky. Apparently the Board of Visitors concluded that Coach Paterno had not done enough to report the allegations against Sandusky.  Coach Paterno had been at the helm of the storied program since 1950 and after Joe Paterno’s firing one of his last public quotes was “This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.” Joe Paterno died two months later and after over 60 years as one of America’s most beloved icons, one of his most notable quotes will be one of sadness and regret,  however;  in a book, by his son Jay Paterno,  released in September 2014, Joe Paterno is quoted as saying, “Maybe the silver lining in this is that some good can come out of this.”

Also at the time the world also learned how some at Penn State either sought to cover up the reported sexual abuse and even allegedly lied to a grand jury which indicted Jerry Sandusky on 48 separate counts. In June of 2012 Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of the 48 counts and sentenced to between 30 and 60 years in prison. According to at least one media report he will probably spend the rest of his life in Greene State Prison in southwestern Pennsylvania with many of if not most of the state’s death row inmates.

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To reiterate what Joe Paterno is quoted as saying, “Maybe the silver lining in this is that some good can come out of this.”

With respect to the emotional, mental, and physical damage that Jerry Sandusky inflicted upon his victims, there is apparently little doubt that most could have been prevented had members of the university and even the district attorney not chosen to dismiss or bury the allegations as early as 1998.

The Penn State story is depicted here to show the dilemma that people face when confronted with allegations of sexual abuse and to give context to a dark time in our history and the actions that some took to neglect, ignore, or conceal a situation that could have prevented further injury to multiple victims at Penn State.

As a direct result of Sandusky’s heinous acts and the alleged neglect and cover-up at Penn State, numerous states have strengthened Mandated Reporter laws to include more reporters, increasing the penalties for not reporting, and shortening the time required to report allegations of suspected sexual abuse. In Virginia, § 63.2-1509, often referred to as the “Mandated Reporter Law”,  one of the additions including adding the following:

16. Any athletic coach, director or other person 18 years of age or older employed by or volunteering  with a private sports organization or team;

The events at Penn State seem to have heightened the awareness in youth sports in the prevention and reporting of suspected sexual abuse.

This and other changes in the law appear to be directly attributable to the failures at Penn State and were reported locally in the media. What is most instructive about Mandated Reporter Laws is that it is the suspicion of abuse that you are required to report; it is the job of the investigative agency after determining that there is probable cause to investigate;  to determine whether or not those suspicions are founded or unfounded.

In September 2014,  Paterno Legacy: Enduring Lessons from the Life and Death of My Father by Jay Paterno was released. Excerpts already released help to shed light on the tragic failure by many at Penn State to prevent the abuse.

Locally, the Sandusky case has some similarities with a case in Salem, Virginia in which Former Salem youth volleyball coach Dewayne Barger was sentenced to 42 years, after being found guilty in September of 2013 for illegally taping teen girls changing their clothes. He’ll serve a suspended sentence of eight years and three months in prison. Upon his release, he’ll be on probation for ten years. In that case at least one of the victims and her parents attempted to report their suspicions to the youth organization years prior and were ostracized as a result.

Both, Hampton Roads Lacrosse (HRLax) and US Lacrosse have made changes to their stated and published policies regarding suspected sexual abuse.

Disclaimer: This story above has absolutely no connection with the events in Virginia and no inference should be suggested or implied nor is any implication intended or inferred by the author. To be absolutely clear, nothing in the story below comes remotely close to the heinous acts for which Sandusky was convicted of perpetrating. The stated purpose for the inclusion of this information is educational and instructional for those involved in youth athletics in preventing and reporting suspected sexual abuse.

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