By now the tragic, shocking events that transpired at Penn State are common public knowledge. Ex-assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was re-arrested last week on new charges of child molestation. That brings the charges against him up to more than 50 counts. Longtime coach Joe Paterno lost his job as the investigation continues. The entire scandal from top to bottom is enough to make this mother two young children weep. It is heartbreaking, infuriating and disturbing.
Naturally, when a story like this comes to light many people begin to ask the question, “How did this happen? What can be done to make sure it never happens again?” A worthy question and one that not only the entire Penn State community will have to address, but also educational institutions across the country. Here in California the question has been posed quite publicly. The answer? Why, more bills of course! CA Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) will introduce a bill that would require all athletic organizations to provide employees with training on how to identify and report child abuse. That doesn’t sound so crazy, does it? Not necessarily, but consider this: last month two separate California representatives, Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) and state Sen. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) put forward two separate bills that would also require employees of universities and colleges to report suspected cases of child abuse to law enforcement. That’s not all…Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has introduced similar legislation in D.C. Why on earth would three different state politicians propose three different bills that cover the same issue? Is it because they think 3 times the bills = 1.9 times the caring (I used government math for that one)?
Politics is big business in the state of California. Besides a salary that averages $113, 000/year and a $162/day per diem (year round, don’t forget), politicians also earn big money with book deals and on the speaking circuit. How do you become someone others will want to pay to speak at their fundraiser dinners and company retreats? You pass a bill that has your name on it. The more sensational, the better. The Smith-Jones Human Waste bill or Jones-Smith Cat Leash bill simply aren’t exciting enough. No one is moved (forgive the pun) by bills that deal with human waste and taking cats for walks, as an example ( by the way, these are not real bills…yet. In Califorina-stan anything is possible when you have a full-time legislature run solely and completely by Democrats). What you want as a politician is a bill that catches the eye, that speaks to emotions and very real public fears. You want a bill that proports to solve a problem publicly and definitively, something you can speak about around the country. You want a bill that identifies you as a public crusader. It has little to do with content and public safety and everything to do with pride and money.
I understand people want to know that nothing like what happened at Penn State will ever happen again. I don’t suggest that it is a poor idea to ask educational institutions to train their employees and talk about how to handle (God forbid) such situations, should they ever arise. I am just like you, dear reader – disgusted and heartbroken at the selfish employees at Penn State who allowed young boys, children to be raped and molested right under their noses for years. We have laws to deal with such heinous crimes. But what is needed here is not more laws. Our nation is drowning in legislation, much of it redundant. With each new public tragedy there come more and more cries for better laws, stricter laws, updated laws, more specific laws. There are so many laws on the books to be broken that our jails and prisons are overflowing with petty criminals, causing more violent offenders to be released early to create more room (that’s happening here in California thanks to…another law!) Its natural to want to prevent more tragedy, but at what cost? In California Governor Jerry Brown has more than 600 bills on his desk awaiting approval before the end of the year. They range from tighter helmet laws to school athletic awards. The gridlock in Sacramento makes Washington look like amateurs. We don’t need to legislate common sense. The national out-cry in response to the Penn State scandal proves that most Americans get that not reporting child abuse is wrong. Do we really need more laws – THREE separate laws – to confirm that sentiment?
Every tragedy does not require a new law. Our society would grind to a halt if every terrible accident or event resulted in a new law being passed. What happened in Pennsylvania was outrageous. The prepatrator is going to jail, hopefully forever. Writing new, vague laws that most likely will end up creating even more fraud and trapping individuals in compliance loopholes will not make our kids safer. Just imagine the things that would be reported to the authorities under these new laws. Every pat on the back, warm squeeze or lingering look could be reported by school employees terrified of prosecution if real allegations are ever proven; not to mention child molesting is a very serious charge and the simple suggestion of it can ruin an innocent person’s life forever. Its too risky. Look at what’s become of sexual harassment laws in the workplace or the zero-tolerance policies in public schools. We now have children being suspended for kissing or calling their teachers “cute”. Why wouldn’t a new law governing issues of sexuality and molestation in higher education turn into the same fiasco?
I too want to ensure this never happens again but adding 3 more bills to the Governor’s desk is not going to change anything for the boys whose lives were destroyed by Sandusky. We don’t need better laws. We just need better people…and that subject is a longer post for a different day.