Saturday, January 14, 2012

Life After Jerry Sandusky

Phil Taylor of Sports Illustrated recently wrote that, as a coach, he would not want to drive kids home after practice anymore for fear of eventually being accused of sexual molestation.  This was my response:

I read Phil Taylor's Point After column with great sadness and disappointment.  Credible allegations that Jerry Sandusky sexually molested numerous youth under his care apparently has led Mr. Taylor to believe that his habit of driving presumably low-income players home might raise suspicions about Mr. Taylor's motivation.

I'm not sure why Mr. Taylor feels more likely to be on the receiving end of allegations since the Sandusky case broke.  Victims usually don't come forward readily, as is the case with Sandusky's victims.  There is simply too much embarrassment and fear to make a young person take a chance.  Erroneous allegations are even rarer than correct allegations.

On a personal level, I will always be appreciative of the kindness shown to me by my high school's varsity basketball and football coach, Mr. Kurachek, who would go out of his way to drive me home after a late game.  Coach knew our family circumstances well, having coached my two older brothers.  He knew it was a hardship for my mother to come fetch me at school, and none of the other players lived close to my neighborhood. 

Over my 33-year career as a teacher, coach, tutor, and administrator, I have been alone in the same room with about 1000 different boys and girls, multiple times.  I have driven home dozens of students, experiences that any adult, Mr. Taylor included, knows is key to finding out what is inside a child's head.  For our non-profit organization, Resources for Inner city CHildren (RICH), which provides tutoring, mentoring, and home visits to truant students, it is absolutely critical that we be able to pick students up, take them home, and otherwise spend individual time with these at-risk, high-promise, low-income youth. 

Anytime I or another one of our staff has individual time with a child, their guardian is aware, and I am aware.  Furthermore, none of RICH's staff may contact our youth outside of our teaching sites or outside teaching hours, for example by email or text, without knowledge of the child's guardian or me.  It is clear that Second Mile, Mr. Sandusky's organization, did not have anything remotely resembling this kind of policy.  It may or may not be true that Mr. Taylor’s school has any such policy.

All coaches, scout leaders, teachers, and mentors who work with youth need to have a policy similar to the above, and parents need to understand that such a policy is in place.  If so, then parents, children, and the adults who work with those children should all rest easily and ensure that the children involved are in a safe and nurturing environment.