Yesterday Jerry Sandusky was convicted of sexual abusing 10 boys. He will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in jail. Now comes the civil lawsuits for compensation for the victims. Sandusky will get sued, sure he will, but so will Penn State.
Will Penn State be held liable? In Pennsylvania as in New York, an employer is not automatically liable for sex abuse by its employees. Generally the victims must prove the employer knew or should have known what was going on, or else failed to screen new hires properly. Here Penn State ‘s goose is cooked. It knew way too much way too early and did way too little to stop it. You don’t have to have a crystal ball to accurately predict that Penn State will end up paying out millions of dollars to the victims. And rightfully so.
Maybe this very publicized case will dissuade other pedophiles from sexually abusing children. But I doubt it. Even those who are caught aren’t usually dissuaded from doing it again. Convicted pedophiles have an extremely high recidivist rate, which is why a sex offender public registry exists, and why, under New York’s Meagan’s law, they are not allowed to live within 2,000 feet of a school while on parole.
One negative side effect this case might have is dissuading goodhearted volunteers from working with disadvantaged children. Sandusky volunteered to “help” vulnerable, disadvantaged children so he could prey upon them. He was like a wolf in sheep’s clothing volunteering to shepherd a flock of sheep. Will volunteers who truly want to help disadvantaged children be dissuaded now from getting involvedt? Will they fear others might perceive their desire to help unfortunate children as a sign of pedophilia? Will they be concerned that they will be falsely accused, or that suspicion might fall their way?
I personally have this concern because I volunteer with disadvantaged children. The photo above is of me taking a group of Boys & Girls Club kids from Geneva, NY swimming. Many of them would never learn to swim or even get in a pool if it were not for me and other volunteers. I feel my work with them is too important to give up. Thus, I will continue to work with them.
Volunteers who work with children should take obvious precautions to isolate themselves from suspicion or accusations. The main precautions I take are: (1) I always work with at least one other volunteer, preferably a female; (2) I am never with any one child alone, always with a big group; (3) at the pool, I never change in the same room or anywhere near the children. I hope other volunteers will continue to work with kids, but will take precautions, too.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com Central NY Personal Injury Lawyers Michaels & Smolak, P.C.