Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Mother of Sandusky’s Alleged Victim Speaks Out

Imagine being a mother of one of Jerry Sandusky’s victims. Imagine the frustration you would feel if you could not get people to believe or to act upon the allegations your son was making about this man, whose reputation was so great that people were willing to turn their backs on so many clues of terrible misconduct. What would you do if, because your son had come forward, he faced threats and harassment at his school? The mother of the first victim to come forward in the Jerry Sandusky case is speaking up on behalf of her son and on behalf of all of the unfortunate victims of Sandusky’s alleged sexual abuse.

 

Central Mountain High School Sandusky

You probably already know about the young boy from Central Mountain High School in Mill Hall, PA, who was the first to blow the whistle on the ex-Penn State assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky. But in a recent interview, this victim’s mother reveals some frightening information regarding how this school mishandled her son’s allegations. To say that her recollection of the events is different from the school’s recollection would be a major understatement.

The mother claims that her son had been active in Sandusky’s Second Mile program; Sandusky’s charity to work with underprivileged kids. She even recalls meeting him at the camp once. Things seemed to be going well with her son until the end of his eighth grade year (at a school where she frequently saw Sandusky in the hallways) when she says he was “getting mouthy and nasty at home.” She explained that she called the school psychologist asking for some help, but they chalked it up to puberty, told her he was a good kid, and that it would all work out.

She said that she didn’t suspect anything was wrong at this point, so she let it go, until his first year at Central Mountain High School, where Sandusky continued to be a constant presence. It was at this point that her son asked her how he would go about looking up “sex weirdos” and indicated that he wanted to look up Jerry because he was a “weirdo.”

When she tried to question him further, she said, “He didn’t come out and say anything directly about Jerry at first. He started telling me that he was upset about his school and his grades and that he felt everyone hated him. At first I thought he was just saying what any child says when they’re stressed out or in trouble. I reassured him that no one in the school hated him. That’s when he told me that they did, because he was always getting pulled out of class.”

She said her son then revealed something she was learning for the first time; several times a week and sometimes daily, he was being taken out of school by Jerry Sandusky, all without her permission or knowledge. Now, this is totally against any school policy I have ever known. No one can take a student from their school without the direct consent of that child’s parent or guardian. Why did this school ever allow this to happen?

“I didn’t know about that,” she said. “I was never aware that he [Sandusky] did that.” In fact, she learned later that it was Steve Turchetta, who was the assistant principal as well as the varsity football coach, who granted Sandusky access to this boy without ever requiring her permission or notifying her in any way.

According to the grand jury indictment, Turchetta defended his inappropriate actions, saying that it wasn’t an unusual occurrence to “call a Second Mile student out of activity period at the end of the day, at Sandusky’s request, to see him.” When the dust settles on the Sandusky case, Steve Turchetta needs to be held accountable for the part he played in this alleged sexual abuse scandal. It seems that he allowed his respect for Jerry Sandusky’s reputation to cloud his judgment when it came to protecting his students.

It was at this point, that the victim’s mother knew that something wasn’t right. She said she contacted the counselor at her son’s school to express her fears and suspicions. She said, “I finally said to the counselor, ‘You’re a mother. I’m a mother. I have a gut feeling that something isn’t right.’”

She also talked to Karen Probst, the school’s principal, telling her that she did not appreciate the school giving Sandusky the right to take her son out of school without her knowledge and demanded that these visits stop. But she claimed that the principal acted as though her suspicions were groundless and there was nothing to be concerned about.

“The principal just waved it off, saying, ‘You know; it’s Jerry. He’s around the school a lot and talks a lot with Second Mile kids. He has a heart of gold.’ I was furious. They were defending this guy,” she said.

Giving up on the principal, who was clearly not listening to her, she asked to have the counselor speak to her son. Just a few hours later, she said she received a phone call from Probst who asked that she immediately come to the school.

She recalled that when she got to the counselor’s office, her son was crying uncontrollably, and the principal told her that her son thought something inappropriate might have happened with Sandusky. At this point, he told his mother that Sandusky had been abusing him.

After hearing what she had dreaded the most, his mother announced they we’re going to call the police. But she claims that both the counselor and principal suggested that she think it over and consider how it would affect her family if she were to call the police. “I repeated the line three times. I said let’s call the police. Right now. Let’s do it. And they continued to stare at me,” she said.

She said that at this point her son began rocking in his chair, shaking his head and sobbing, “See! They don’t believe me!”

According to this mother, neither the principal nor the counselor responded in any way to her or to her son. She said that they offered no condolences. “I remember saying, ‘I’m not playing. This isn’t funny. I mean seriously, look how upset he is! Something happened.’”

Instead of coming to this boy’s rescue, his mother said that Probst said, “Jerry has a heart of gold, he’s been around all these kids and you really should just go home and think about what this is going to do to your son and your family if you do that.” When the dust settles on the Jerry Sandusky case, Karen Probst and this counselor need to be held accountable for the parts they played in this sexual abuse scandal. Whether it was misguided reverence for Sandusky or fear over the part the school played by its misconduct coming to light, these women did not perform their duties to protect the safety of one of their students. And their unwillingness to comfort this boy and his mother who were clearly devastated is beyond reprehensible!

At this point, this distraught mother took her equally distraught son home and called a friend who worked with the state’s Children’s Youth Services program, who took them to the Services center. It was here that they met Dr. Mike Gillum, a licensed psychologist who has a private practice in Williamsport. He has worked with the state on child abuse cases and has been working closely with these two ever since. It was Gillum who called Probst to inform her that Sandusky was the subject of an abuse investigation and that he was not to be allowed near the school or this boy.

It has never been explained by Turchetta or Probst, or any other school official, why Sandusky was allowed to take this boy from the school without his mother’s permission. Sandusky was barred from the school, but according to his mother, her son has faced terrible repercussions for stepping forward.

She said that only Child Youth Services, the police, Gillum, a few school administrators and immediate family had been told what happened to her son. Yet, she was shocked to discover that Turchetta, apparently angry over the removal of Sandusky from school grounds and the football team, talked openly about her son’s case at his weekly football parent meeting. She learned this from a grandmother of one of the football players, who also told her, “Coach Turchetta said these charges are never going to stick and he’ll walk away.”

The mother claims that after her son developed a close bond with a 28-year old volunteer coach, Turchetta approached her son, got in his face, and yelled, “With what you’ve done already, no 28-year-old man needs to be around you.”

She said, “I think he was accusing my son of having some kind of relationship with him. That’s how my son took it, too.”

Recently, she learned that some students were threatening her son, so she immediately reported her concerns to Principal Probst, telling her, “I heard that some kids were going to do some gang beating on my son. I want to make sure you are aware of that and that Mike Gillum was going to talk to the county to see if we could get some police up there, to take whatever measure’s to keep him safe.”

Probst told her they would discuss it and get back with her. But when she finally heard back from Probst, she said, “There was nothing about her meeting, nothing about my son’s safety. No response to the threat that some kids were going to hurt my son. Instead she brought up the BB gun they apparently found over a month ago. She said that he left the school distraught and had a BB gun. And I thought, ‘What are you getting at now?’ What’s that BB gun have to do with this? That BB gun is rusty and probably 100 years old. It’s been sitting in his car forever.”

This mom finally had enough. She removed her son from Central Mountain High School and is hoping that in a new environment he may be able to heal.

I hope that when the dust settles on the Jerry Sandusky case, this school and its officials will be held accountable for the horrendous way they handled this family as well as the potential danger they placed other young boys in by allowing Sandusky free reign in their school.

Ironically, on Nov. 7, Central Mountain High School was praised by Pennsylvania State Attorney General Linda Kelly for “doing the right thing” regarding the Sandusky matter. According to the indictment, the school immediately called the police when it became aware of the abuse, a fact that this mother firmly refutes.

In a statement Gillum made regarding the actions of the school compared to their statements regarding their actions, he said, “Given the disparity between the actions taken when the initial symptoms were observed and the mother requested intervention to determine whether or not he was being victimized by this man, and then for the school officials to resist pursuing law enforcement or children and youth services, then later down the road to have officials claim that they were suspicious of Jerry Sandusky, or concerned about him, is obviously not congruent.”

Obviously it is not, and just as obviously, this school played a part in the alleged victimization of this boy. When the dust settles in the Jerry Sandusky case, I would hope that this school is held accountable for their inaction and the part they played in allowing this alleged sexual offender unapproved access to potential victims!

Waiting on Pennsylvania’s Education Reform Plan

Two weeks ‘til Corbett’s schools reform package

Governor Tom Corbett is poised to make an announcement, maybe as early as this week, on his plans for education reform in Pennsylvania. But in the wake of massive budget cuts which affected basic and college-level education earlier in the year, members of the General Assembly are likely awaiting his plan with some degree of trepidation.

One of the issues that he is likely to address is school choice which provides tuition vouchers for children to attend parochial or private schools of their choice.

Pennsylvania’s Senate and House both considered school choice before the summer recess, but neither chamber took a vote on a bill. And, while Corbett has been a supporter of the voucher system, in June, he indicated that he would be more inclined to favor a compromise similar to a bill by Rep. Jim Christiana which limited vouchers to low-income students who reside in failing school districts.

Christiana, R-Beaver County said, “The governor seemed like he was willing to sign a compromise bill in the spring. It seems he’s willing to sign it now. It is my hope we can get it done in the next couple weeks.”

Those who oppose a voucher system argue that the cuts to education which have crippled public schools make it difficult for the state to afford to fund a voucher program.

Clearly private schools or religious schools have the most to gain by having tax dollars follow students into their facilities, so Corbett will need to deliver a plan that firmly addresses how much money will be shifted from public schools to private schools in Pennsylvania’s voucher system.

It is anticipated that Corbett will also address changes in how charter schools will be created in his plan.

Another issue that Corbett will need to address is that of teacher evaluations. At this time in Pennsylvania, principals evaluate the teachers in their school, but a test program is in progress which includes student performance on state standardized tests as a criterion for performing teacher evaluations. This test program is not going to be used as an evaluation tool this year, but it will be used to decide if the data that is collected can be utilized in the evaluation process in the future.

In a press conference on Wednesday in which he was asked about his education reform plan, Corbett said, “You’ll hear something very clear.”

Corbett has repeatedly stated that passing education reform measures is his top legislative priority. In June, negotiations over the legislation fizzled out among House Republicans. But last week, Republican Senator Jeffrey Piccola, of Dauphin County, called for Corbett to take the lead on this issue.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Corbett said, “People expect us to move much faster. I move very deliberately.”

So it seems that Pennsylvania, like the rest of us, will have to wait awhile to see what education reforms their state will be making.

PA Photographer Takes a Stand Against Bullying

How many of us would willingly lose money at work, if by doing so, we could send a clear message to bullies that their behavior is unacceptable? Well, Jennifer McKendrick, a small business owner, put her paycheck on the line to do just that!

Teen Bully

Jennifer is a photographer in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, who is employed by many parents to take their children’s senior pictures. She told Channel 4 Action News’ Ashlie Hardway that she was on Facebook one night and discovered a locally-made page promoting bullying of some of the local high school seniors. When she noticed that some of the bullies were girls who she was supposed to photograph, she decided that, not only was she not going to take their senior pictures, but she was not going to take pictures of any “ugly” people anymore.

Jennifer told Hardway, “I don’t want to photograph them, I don’t want them to be a part of my business image and I don’t want them on my blog. It was beyond ‘your clothes are ugly’ or ‘you don’t have any brand clothes’ or ‘you are ugly, your hair is not right.’ It was vicious. It was talking about sexuality.”

The page identified certain students by name and attacked them. (Cyberbullying at its ugliest!)

Jennifer took screen shots of the online comments, sending them to the four girls’ parents with the following message:

“I am writing to cancel your shoot scheduled _________ due to some recent events brought to my attention. After stumbling upon a Facebook page called (name removed), I witnessed mean and cruel behavior coming from _______. I am returning your depositing of $212.00 and I’m afraid will need to find another photographer for your daughters senior photos. I want to protect the image of my business and the mean and hurtful things she has said on there is not the type of client I want to represent my business. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and I hope you understand my reasons for doing so. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this matter any further.”

“I got a couple responses that said ‘thank you for letting them know,’ that they were unaware what was going on and that they would take care of it,” Jennifer said. 

Jennifer also blogged about the incident on her website explaining why she did what she did and declaring that she would not photograph anyone who behaves this way to other people. The blog, titled “I Won’t Photograph Ugly People,” explains that after Jennifer saw the Facebook page, she posted the following comment on Facebook:

“If I’m wrong, please speak up. I came across a page on facebook that was created (by someone under a ficticious name) thats purpose is to bully,  ridicule and say mean and hurtful things about their class mates. While visiting the page, I found several teenage girls that have scheduled sessions with me for their senior pictures. I am emailing them tomorrow to cancel their shoots. I do not want them to represent my business and I am beside myself at how MEAN and CRUEL they were on that page.” (Clearly Jennifer was upset, as you can tell by her typos, which I will not correct in order to relay information exactly as it appeared.)

She stated in her blog that while she was writing the email she intended to send to the four girls’ parents, hundreds of comments began pouring in, most of them stating their total support and admiration for her decision.

She also stated in her blog that she clearly cannot screen every client to determine whether they are bullies, but that in this situation, “it was right in front of my face. I saw it with my own eyes.” And in order to explain her decision, she stated, “it wasn’t hear say, it was right there..with their smiling face right beside such an ugly statement. I couldn’t forget about it, I mean how I could spend 2 hours with someone during our session trying to take beautiful photos of them knowing they could do such UGLY things. Realistically, I know by canceling their shoots it’s not going to make them “nicer people” but I refuse to let people like that represent my business.”

She went on to say that since she is a small business owner, she has the luxury to make decisions regarding who she will photograph, and she boldly stated, “If you are ugly on the inside, I’m sorry but I won’t take your photos to make you look pretty on the outside!”

While Jennifer has received hundreds of comments supporting her actions, not all of the comments she has received have been supportive. In a follow-up blog on her website, she answered some of the negative questions which were raised regarding her decision.

In some instances, she reported that people had made “very mean, hateful, cruel comments.” In fact, some people, including four of her clients, accused her of being a “Facebook stalker who was using Facebook to prescreen or check out her clients.

Jennifer explained that the bullying Facebook page came to her attention when a former colleague of hers, who is a Facebook friend, posted a comment on her page, which Jennifer, as a parent of a small child herself, clicked on to read further. Here is what her colleague had sent her that tweaked Jennifer’s curiosity and led her to the infamous Facebook page:

“If bullying has ever affected your life in any way, please help in this very small way to reduce bullying in Indiana. Go on the Facebook page (left blank in Jennifer’s blog) and report it as inappropriate. It only takes a couple of minutes. And then say a prayer of compassion for the person who set it up.”

Jennifer explained in her second blog that when she went to the page her friend had posted, she discovered her four clients were involved in the bullying. She felt that taking these girls’ pictures would make her a hypocrite, “when they did such ugly things and it went against everything I am trying to teach my daughter.”

Some even accused her of being a bully themselves because she called these girls “ugly.” She blogged that she was clearly referring to their actions and not their physical appearance when she called them ugly.

She wrote, “People aren’t born mean, it’s something they are taught to do or that they do by CHOICE. They were making a choice to be mean and I was making a choice NOT to be part of it or to be part of my business. For those of you who say I should keep my personal beliefs out of my business because it makes me unprofessional. Then I will be unprofessional until the day my business fizzles. I sleep good at night.”

Additionally, some accused Jennifer of starting this whole thing for publicity. To this, she countered that she was writing, as she has done in the past, about her business and her personal beliefs, not for publicity. She wrote, “My original intent was not to go on an anti-bullying rally, but hey if that is the message that gets out there…is it THAT wrong. At least it got you talking about the subject, it opened up dialog for some people to talk with their children about it….is it really such a bad thing.”

Some criticized her for not releasing the names of the four girls, to which Jennifer responded, “We live in such small towns here in Southwestern PA, don’t you think by releasing those names I would in-turn be releasing the media and internet onto them completely defeating the purpose. I mean, if I’m getting mean and hateful things said about me for STANDING UP for something I believe in, can you even imagine what would happen to these 4 girls? As much as I don’t LIKE what they did, I do have compassion and empathy and I would never do that to ANYONE.”

And some accused her of depriving these four girls of having their senior pictures in their yearbook. Unlike the high school my children attended, where students all had to go to one photographer for their senior picture to be placed in the yearbook, Jennifer explained that she isn’t the contracted school yearbook photographer, in fact, there are many photographers in the area for them to choose from, so these girls can still get their senior pictures taken and placed in the yearbook.

I am sure it will come as no surprise to you, in light of my numerous blogs regarding bullying in our schools, that I not only applaud Jennifer McKendrick, I salute her! The courage it took to choose what is right over padding her own bank account speaks volumes about this woman’s integrity. And if it brought some publicity that helps in both the fight against bullying and her photography business, I’m all for both!

This story makes me wonder what would happen if more of us took a stand against bullying in our own spheres of influence? Educators alone cannot battle bullying. That old saying, “It takes a village…” comes to mind. It takes more individuals of integrity, like Jennifer McKendrick, to stand up proudly and declare that they refuse to buy into or cater to bullying anymore, no matter what the personal cost.

What do you say? Are you willing to be a Jennifer McKendrick in your own community, whether at work or at play? Are you willing to take a personal risk for the greater good?

It will take a village to stomp out bullying! Are you willing to play your part?