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Paterno Picture, Quote on Middle School 'Heroes Wall' Raises Red Flags [Poll]

Picture and quote at Great Oak Middle School of controversial Penn State coach who was fired after being accused of not doing enough to stop an accused child sex predator has some questioning whether it should be taken down.

Officials in Oxford Public Schools are grappling with a difficult question: should they paint over an image of and quote by embattled former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno that is prominent in one of their schools?

A painted figure of Paterno, who was recently fired for allegedly not doing enough to help stop an alleged child sex abuse scandal perpetrated by one of his longtime assistants, is displayed on a gymnasium wall at Great Oak Middle School next to this renowned quote from him: “My best team will be the one that produces the best doctors, lawyers, fathers and citizens, not necessarily the one with the best record. Let’s keep it in context.” The display, directly underneath the scoreboard, is part of the school’s "heroes' wall" project that was painted about 19 years ago, said interim schools Superintendent Jim Connelly.

“As this whole story up at Penn State unfolds, I’m leaning possibly toward the inappropriateness of this being on the wall,” he said, adding that the alleged victims were middle school-aged students. “But there is a process; we will discuss it. I don’t want to be dictatorial about it.”

Connelly will discuss the issue further with the school's Parent Teacher Organization, school Principal Brian Murphy and the Board of Education. Connelly said he’s received calls from about three or four parents who have expressed concern – he said none of them were irate but questioned the appropriateness of it. He said town officials had also received calls.

The scandal at Penn State has dominated national news for several weeks after longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusy was charged with 40 counts of molesting eight boys over a span of 15 years; he has posted bail and is awaiting a preliminary hearing Dec. 13, according to the Huffington Post. Some of the assaults occurred in the school’s football showers, according to a grand jury investigating the matter.

Paterno, the winningest coach in college football and a longtime icon in the sport,  was fired by university trustees on Nov. 9. Click here for more on that story. Paterno's name has been taken off the Big 10 football championship trophy. And it has been reported in the mainstream media that a statue of Paterno that greets visitors entering Penn State’s Beaver Stadium is on verge of being torn down, but university officials have denied they will remove it at this point. 

However, in Oxford, Conn., a rural town of a little more than 12,000 people about 300 miles from State College, Pa., some residents believe it’s only right to remove any semblance of the coach once known affectionately as "JoePa" from the middle school’s wall.

“I don’t know all of the details about the (Penn State) case, but when I first heard about the allegations, I said to my wife, ‘Am I being anal or shouldn’t we take the quote off the wall? Or am I just causing a big stir?,’” said Oxford resident Steve Cote, whose wife, Amy, was elected to the local school board last month. “If it would cost a couple of bucks in paint to remove it, I say we paint over it.”

Steve Cote, who has a child at the school, said he hasn’t heard much discussion about the issue from other parents. However, the school’s basketball season, when parents are in the gym on a regular basis, has not begun.

If the painting were not removed, Cote said he would question why but would not be mortified. Most students, he said, probably wouldn’t know too much about the Penn State investigation.

“It’s more for the parents,” Cote said. “I’m sure we could replace it with someone else more modern.”

Board of Education Chairwoman Paula Guillet admits she hasn’t followed the Penn State case closely, but she plans to learn more now that it's related to an Oxford school issue.

At this point, she said, "without knowing all of the facts," she doesn’t have a strong opinion about the middle school's display.

“I absolutely think it should be discussed, though,” she said.

For his part, Connelly - who will only be here until the end of December as interim school chief - will continue to look into the history of the heroes display to see how those highlighted were chosen. Others on the walls include past presidents, such as John F. Kennedy, civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and, in the gym, past sports heroes such as Joe DiMaggio. Whether Paterno still belongs there remains to be seen.

“We must have a discussion about this situation and all of our heroes on the walls and whether they are still appropriate,” Connelly said.

And if Paterno is removed from the middle school, it will be a lot quieter than his departure from Penn State, Connelly promises.

“If we do take it down, it will not be a huge display,” he said. “We will just quietly paint over it, probably during a school break.”

Jennifer December 12, 2011 at 04:36 PM
Whatever McQueary told Paterno was enough to compel Paterno to report the matter to his superiors. So McQueary’s description certainly wasn’t benign. Paterno’s position allowed him to bring a considerable amount of pressure to bear to ensure that appropriate action was taken by PS officials–beyond banning Sandusky from bringing children into the practice facility (REALLY?!?). He was still allowed to exist on campus, in Paterno’s face, right up until Oct 2011! How do you stay quiet with that happening - certainly not the actions of a hero! And how can it be that staff members at a nearby high school had a greater ability to effect change, than Paterno did on campus? Maybe we should put the folks at Central Mountain HS on the wall. They actually took the step of baring Sandusky from campus, and notified the proper authorities once they heard of (not witnessed) Sandusky’s inappropriate acts from the victim. You want to say Paterno did all he was legally required to do? Fine. You want to say that other's had a hand in this too? Agreed, but they're not on the wall at GOMS. If they were, I'd want their pictures taken down too. You want to say Paterno may not have known as much, or had as much power to push for action, as some think he did? Fine, but he knew enough, and he could have done more than he did. Even he agrees with that. You want to say that not everyone has that kind of courage? I agree. You know what we call someone who does? A HERO!!!
Janis Hardy December 12, 2011 at 04:36 PM
Joe, just curious, how could Joe Pa have defended 'those kids' IF (I know, big IF) he didn't know who they were or what was going on? Hindsight is always 20/20 and we can always find ways to point out what 'should have' been done, but until we know for a fact whether or not he knew what was going on at the time it was happening, all this is second-guessing. Now, I am neither an alumna or former PA resident, so I like to think about how I would feel if one of our beloved and highly-respected UCONN coaches (Edsel when he was here, Calhoun or Auriemma) were blamed for not doing something if this same situation occurred here and none of them claimed to know anything about it. I believe I would grant them the benefit of the doubt and wait until all the facts were in before rushing to judgement. While I do not know anything about the Connecticut Universities' reporting policies and procedures, I do believe our state laws are different here in CT, which makes a big difference. I think many of us are basing our opinions about what should have been done on our knowledge of what CT law provides, and not on the laws of PA. I know this is a moral issue in addition to a legal issue, but I still would not judge Joe Pa until I knew all the facts. It's like serving on a jury...
Jennifer December 12, 2011 at 07:37 PM
WADRTJ (w/all due respect to Janis-I'm thinking of trade markong it) I'm not a PS res/ alum, but I've followed this story pretty closely (& wondered what Oxford would do with the mural) before it was printed here. Clearly, I'm not alone. (And frankly, I don’t think Penn State alum/PA residents corner the market on access to information/knowledge of this case.) I know the media impact on issues like these. That's why I’ve base my opinions/comments primarily on the Grand Jury presentment, and Paterno's public statements. While I agree that sources of useful information on this topic need not be limited to town residents (in fact, none of my info sources came from in-town), I do think that ultimately the discussion/decision of weather or not to keep the Paterno mural up on the “Wall of Heros” at GOMS should be left to Oxford residents. My response is to your post about the BOE taking note of Oxford Patch's poll on this topic. I think an unofficial poll taken here, that is open to people outside the town (some with an agenda of their own), all of whom can vote numerous times, is not a compelling argument for or against. In fact, I actually skimmed the posts (can't believe I took the time) and after discounting those who IDed themselves as from out of town, & those who didn’t really state a position, came up with a slight edge to those in favor of removing it. Should the BOE take note of that data? It's about as empirically accurate as the Patch poll.
Janis Hardy December 12, 2011 at 08:23 PM
Good thoughts, Jennifer. One thing, however, MY comment about the poll results was not directed to the BOE at all, but to the few posters (like myself) who are still blogging here defending their various positions. The BOE is in no way obligated to even pay attention to anything posted here, and will make a reasoned decision one way or the other based on what they, parents, and school administrators at the middle school believe is the right thing to do. Much of this blog got off the topic of whether or not the quote should stay and onto whether or not Paterno is guilty or innocent, which is something none of us has any particular influence over.
Ron Powell December 12, 2011 at 09:26 PM
I believe that it is " ... and you're not even a resident of the town," Mr. Board member. :) I am just trying to engage in thoughtful discussion, and hopefully I am adding to the conversation by keeping it focused on facts. Honestly, this is not about Joe Paterno, it's about the truth.
Ron Powell December 12, 2011 at 10:11 PM
That's the problem, Michael. Few here beyond Janis are backing up their arguments with verifiable facts and sound reasoning. We see a lot of references to, "Come on, it's common sense!" Well, common sense was the argument made to prosecute the Duke lacrosse team, too, until people took a hard look at the facts of the case and realized that the accused were actually innocent. Common sense, absent support from the known facts, is not common sense, but a rush to judgment. Joe Paterno does not stand accused of a crime, and this is not a court of law, but I do believe that the man deserves the benefit of the doubt -- not a free pass, not an excuse -- but the benefit of the doubt. He says that he was not told about an assault. He says that he did not know about any other incidents other than the one McQueary reported to him. Everything about the man's 84 years on this earth until now suggests that the man tells the truth and obeys the law. There has been nothing about his character until now to suggest that he is a liar. Mike McQueary, on the other hand, has changed his story at least four times, and has been caught in at least two known lies. Reasonable people may disagree over Joe Paterno's legacy and his actions or lack thereof in this case. But no one, not a single one of those victims, benefits when those disagreements are based on anything other than verifiable facts and sound reasoning.
John M. Joy December 13, 2011 at 03:34 AM
The "victims" at this moment in time, Mr. Macchio, are alleged. Or have you forgotten already our principle of presumption of innocence, contrary to your previous post?
MIchael Macchio December 13, 2011 at 12:13 PM
Yes, Mr. Joy, I should have technically said "alleged victims", but using the presumption principle, when do we remove the "alleged predator" from future "alleged victims"? It is a thin line...
John M. Joy December 13, 2011 at 01:34 PM
It has been done. A criminal complaint has been filed, and the process leading up to a trial has begun... for Mr. Sandusky, as he's the accused predator, not Mr. Paterno. "Trial" - and "conviction" - by media (who make their money off of eyeballs and thus have every incentive to skew to the sensational and salacious) is odious enough: cf. Richard Jewell or the aforementioned Duke Lacrosse players. It's much more so when the individual in question does not even stand accused of a crime, and "reporting" is little more than speculation, rumor and innuendo regading corporate culture and of the "what did he know and when did he know it?" variety.
AC December 13, 2011 at 01:50 PM
Ron- Backing it up with facts? Individuals here post media quotes and we are vilified as sheep of the media. You post a quote from Sports Illustrated from back in 1982 and you presume this quote means Sandusky and Paterno did not get along. Is this not a media quote? Listen, bottom line is you choose to believe that Paterno had no idea of the investigation in 1998 and the alleged incident there. Somehow Paterno was immuned to this and was the only one who was kept in the dark. Imagine that; Joe Paterno not knowing his assistant coach was under investigation. I will choose to believe otherwise. You also continue to assert your belief that Paterno did enough in 2002 and he had no control over Sandusky remaining a part of Penn State. I challenge anyone, Penn State Residents and PA Alum, to tell me when Paterno was not able to dictate who could attend practices and use the football facilities at their leisure while bringing other individuals with him (children in this case and numerous of times).
AC December 13, 2011 at 01:50 PM
continued - You would like to believe that Paterno had no say in this; I believe otherwise. So, keep posting your media quotes and keep thinking Paterno had no idea of the 1998 incident and was not able to tell Sandusky to no longer attend practices but also to no longer bring children from the Second mile to use the football facilities. It's well documented now that Sandusky used the allure of Penn State football with these children, even bringing one to a bowl game in Texas. But let me guess you will come back with the grand jury report and stating Paterno denied knowing the 1998 incident and he had no control of Sandusky attending his team practices. Again, I, believe this man knew much more and could have done much more to help these children. The fear of loss will drive individuals to do things unimaginable. I believe Paterno was conflicted and choose to not only protect his team but his legacy and also Penn State. Is it really hard for you to fathom the idea that they tried desperately to keep this quiet.
John M. Joy December 13, 2011 at 02:06 PM
...and what you (or I) believe matters nary a whit. The criminal case is proceeding, as will the inevitable civil case. Let's see what's revealed during them; then we'll know. In the meantime, it's rumor, speculation, innuendo.
AC December 13, 2011 at 02:29 PM
John Joy- Actually it does matter, without a belief we cannot answer the poll question above, thus the discussion.
Ron Powell December 13, 2011 at 05:40 PM
The quote from 1982 was to show that Sandusky's involvement in the charity was a longstanding source of conflict between Sandusky and Paterno. Otherwise, you would have countered with the "Well, Paterno is just saying that because he knew about the 1998 incident." I have never stated that Joe Paterno did enough in 2002. It may become clear that he did not do enough. I have argued that, given conflicting evidence, that he deserves the benefit of the doubt -- not a free pass, not a free excuse -- but the assumption that he is probably telling the truth even though we can't prove it. Surely Gary Schultz, who was aware of the 1998 incident, should have at the very least informed Wendell Courtney, and probably should have contacted child welfare even with the information he claimed that he had. I know I would have. There is a lot more people could and should have done.
Ron Powell December 13, 2011 at 06:16 PM
I don't know if Joe Paterno had no say in this. I do know that some of the statements that you have made are clearly false. When someone makes a statement that is false, I assume that he or she is mistaken. When someone repeats a statement after being made aware that it is false, it becomes a lie. Unlike you, I have not made a single statement here that is false. I can back up everything that I write with verifiable facts and sound reasoning. You believe that Paterno knew about the 1998 investigation, but you don't make clear why you believe this. It cannot come from the grand jury presentment, because we know that at least four witnesses who testified stated under oath that Paterno did not know. It cannot come from the detective who led the investigation, because he has stated that Paterno did not know. It cannot be the reporter who broke the story -- she has stated that he didn't. At what point do you look at your position and realize that you have to bend facts to hold onto it? And what will happen when the charges against Sandusky pertaining to the non-existent Victim 2 are dismissed, and along with it all of the criminal charges against Curley and Schultz? This will surely happen in the interstice between arraignment and trial. Your whole argument against Paterno is that he *knew* about this crime -- a crime which the Commonwealth has not and cannot even show took place. Will AC come back here and acknowledge this?
AC December 13, 2011 at 06:47 PM
Ron- What statements that I have made, which were not opinions of mine, false or as you state a lie? Also, I don't care what a reporter or Paterno stated, I find it extremely hard to believe that one of his coaches was under investogation for child abbuse and Paterno had no idea of the alleged incident. Then, mysteriously, Sandusky "retires" in the prime of his career at the age of 55, 8 months later in 1999. Now you are misstating my argument. My issue is what he did in 2002, well the lack of.
Ron Powell December 13, 2011 at 07:53 PM
AC, not just any reporter: Sara Ganim, the reporter who uncovered the story in the first place. Her reporting has hands-down been more thorough and accurate than anyone's. She has interviewed each of the original eight victims, she is familiar with the grand jury testimony (not just having read the presentment), and she has spoken with all of the witnesses or people representing them. No other reporter can make this claim. Circumstantial evidence certainly carries some weight, but it should not be taken alone, and a determination of the facts should be based on the preponderance of the evidence. When you have four other witnesses who would have no reason to lie, stating that he did not know, then that is probably more substantial than some mysterious "belief" that you have. As I wrote earlier, the entire 2002 case is about to collapse due to lack of evidence. It is not a question of if, but when. Not only is McQueary's testimony not credible, but there is no victim! So when those charges against Sandusky are dismissed, and when the case against Curley and Schultz is dropped, will AC admit that she railroaded Joe Paterno for some ambiguous failure to do more to prevent a crime that no one even knows happened? More importantly, should a man's otherwise pristine legacy be tarnished for some imaginary failing?
Christine E. December 13, 2011 at 08:26 PM
Good lord, haven't you guys had enough of this article yet? Haven't you stated your opinions loud and clear? I don't even understand why this is a regionally published article. I haven't been able to read comments from people in my own community for over a week because our comment feeds have been taken over by a story from Oxford. Annoying.
Ron Powell December 13, 2011 at 11:37 PM
Christine, wouldn't it be easier to unsubscribe from the feed than ask people who still care about this topic to stop posting about it? Wait. Don't tell me you didn't know you could unsubscribe by clicking the link at the bottom of your email!
Christine E. December 13, 2011 at 11:45 PM
Funny guy, except I mentioned nothing of emails, did I? I'm not subscribed to this article...but it's regionally published, meaning it shows up on the comment feeds on every Patch page from the surrounding area, not just yours in Oxford. I live in Monroe, and our comment feed is being drowned out by a bunch of people from Oxford. We've been watching you for a week debate the same thing and make no new additional points on the subject that haven't been made already. Time to move on.
Ron Powell December 14, 2011 at 03:46 AM
That is just odd, and I did not know. I am sure that comments from your provincial neighbors on the Monroe Patch are an essential ingredient to your happiness and peace, and I cannot imagine how you carry on with the 11 comments a day that you do not wish to read. Insightful contributions from Monroe residents, such as the one to brand food stamp recipients with an 'F' on their foreheads, are too important to miss to a discussion that has morphed from one about a silly little wall to one about due process, criminal procedure, and justice.
Christine E. December 14, 2011 at 04:11 AM
Actually, that article was not a monroe-only article either. Thanks though.
Jenna December 14, 2011 at 05:26 AM
I have to agree with Christine. She is correct when she states that it's a regional article and the comments will come up on the patch comment feed. I have never commented on this article until now and I am not subscribed to it, but I as well have seen these comments drowning out my local patch website for over a week now and it would be nice to see discussions that involve my own town versus others. With all due respect, if this is an issue within your town I think the time would be better spent debating what should be done about the quote at a town meeting. Discussing it on the patch will not get anything done.
Ron Powell December 14, 2011 at 07:06 AM
I agree about the regional feed being annoying; ideally the four or five of us who do care about this story enough to continue commenting on it would do so without affecting the feed of other towns. It is a published article in which readers are invited to comment online, and that is what we are doing. I don't think any of us were aware that our comments were showing up in the feeds of other towns, or we might have chosen to respond a bit more judiciously. Perhaps your annoyance would be better directed at Patch?
Janis Hardy December 14, 2011 at 04:08 PM
Paul, probably this is a good time to shut this down? No new arguments are being made, and the topic has gone way off the quote on the wall..... Perhaps Ron or another person interested in the course of events relating to this issue can write a Patch-blog to continue the discussion. After all, Sandusky was in court yesterday, nothing happened, and perhaps nothing else will until after the holidays. The Chairman of the BOE is researching. and I am sure the BOE will take the matter up at a future meeting, so don't you think it's time to take this down (for now)?
AC December 15, 2011 at 07:03 PM
This makes me sick, as if Ron you are rooting for this scumbag to be cleared, "As I wrote earlier, the entire 2002 case is about to collapse due to lack of evidence. It is not a question of if, but when. Not only is McQueary's testimony not credible, but there is no victim! So when those charges against Sandusky are dismissed, and when the case against Curley and Schultz is dropped, will AC admit that she railroaded Joe Paterno for some ambiguous failure to do more to prevent a crime that no one even knows happened?" So scumbags lawyer today stated that Sandusky only showered with these boys to teach them how to shower. Ron, for sure you will be the individual who believes this arguement.
Janis Hardy December 16, 2011 at 02:52 PM
Mike, as a member of the BOE I think your mean-spirited personal-attack comments are inappropriate. This issue is on hold for now, per action taken at a BOE meeting recently. As I said, if activists want to continue this discussion, they should write their own blog and get the discussion off this column about a local Oxford matter. Period.
MIchael Macchio December 16, 2011 at 04:20 PM
Janis, this is a sensitive subject that has many frustrations to it. That being said, I do respect you and your opinions (though I may not always agree with them). Therefore, I have removed the comments that may be construed as personally offensive. If there are others let me know and I will remove them as well. Merry Christmas.
Janis Hardy December 16, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Mike, I'm sorry you removed all your comments. But I think you may have misunderstood my point, and since you removed the last one, I couldn't point out exactly what you said that prompted it. None of your posts were personally offensive to ME, and yes, you absolutely have a right to your own opinion. However, I feel that when anyone expresses their opinion and when doing so calls other people names or denigrates them personally in any way is inappropriate. It is OK to disagree with someone elses 'opinion', but we should always keep in mind that an 'opinion', belief or feeling is one thing and the individual is another. Keeping the focus on the 'opinion' and not the person having the opinion is how we all can 'respectfully disagree' and have an open debate about any issue without it becoming nasty or mean spirited. That is what I meant. I think debating an issue and reading opinions from many differing viewpoints, whether one agrees or disagrees, is very enlightening and often expands our thinking beyond the narrow parameters of our own 'tunnels'. A lot of really nice people have opinions that may differ from mine, but that doesn't affect what I think or feel about them, and most are my very good friends!
Paul Singley July 16, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Oxford Board of Ed. Chairwoman says that in light of the Louis Freeh report, which states Joe Paterno did nothing to stop child molestation even though he knew it was happening within his program, the painting of Paterno and the quote will be removed from the wall at Great Oak Middle School. http://oxford-ct.patch.com/articles/update-oxford-school-officials-to-paint-over-paterno-picture-quote

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