A disturbing report released last week that indicates former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno deliberately covered up a child sex abuse scandal perpetrated by his longtime former assistant has officials here in Oxford reconsidering whether to paint over a picture of the coach that is
Oxford Board of Education Chairwoman Paula Guillet said Friday the school board could discuss what to do with the painting, which is on a gym wall under a scoreboard at Great Oak Middle School, during its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night. The board last discussed the controversial topic in December, when school and town officials debated removing Paterno’s picture and a quote by the late coach which reads: “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.”
It is not only the photo of Paterno that disturbs many parents and members of the community, some of whom reached out to Oxford Patch about this issue: the quote is equally troublesome. Many say the quote, which preaches good morals, sounds disingenuous; that is especially true for those who believe the scathing 267-page report about child molestation at Penn State released Thursday by former FBI Director Louis Freeh. The document states that Paterno knew much more about longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusy’s abuse of children than he claimed and helped cover it up for several years in an attempt to protect Sandusky’s reputation, the school’s good name and the prominent Penn State football program.
Sandusky, 68, was convicted of molesting 10 boys over several years; some of the incidents occurred in Penn State football locker rooms. The report indicates that Paterno first heard allegations of Sandusky’s abuse of children in 1998 and essentially turned a blind eye to the issue over the next 13 years.
Paterno’s reputation was tarnished when a criminal investigation into Sandusky’s actions was made public in March 2011; Paterno was ultimately fired for not doing enough to stop the crimes. He died on Jan. 22.
The Louis Freeh investigation, which included interviews with 400 individuals and the review of "millions" of e-mails, basically solidified that history will remember Paterno more for what he didn’t do to help children than what he did to win football games. (.)
Of course Paterno, the winningest coach in college football history, had a golden reputation among the general public when his painting went up at Great Oak Middle School here 20 years ago with other iconic figures from American history.
The public and the press questioned the Oxford school board, education officials and town leaders about the appropriateness of the Paterno painting in December. Former interim Superintendent James Connelly told Oxford Patch at that time he was leaning toward the painting being considered inappropriate, but he ultimately left it up to the Board of Ed. The school board briefly discussed the Paterno picture and quote at its Dec. 14 meeting but took no action.
Guillet said Friday she’s not sure how much of a discussion the board will have on this issue during its 7 p.m. meeting at Oxford High School on Tuesday. It will not be on the agenda, she said, but a conversation may come up.
Interestingly, education officials at Penn State are grappling with a similar issue. They, too, have people asking them to remove a tribute to Paterno that sits on the campus in Happy Valley. Many want a bronze Paterno statue near the school’s football field torn down immediately. But ESPN.com reported Sunday that university officials has chosen to keep the statue on campus. For now.