Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Joe Paterno, Penn State, Social Media Crisis Management, and the Law

Joe Paterno's days as a head college football coach, teacher, and mentor to young men may be fast approaching an end. It may be a week, a few days, or even hours before he is no longer the head football coach of Penn State. One of the most respected college coaches of all time is on his way out because Penn State is embroiled in a child molestation scandal. Paterno's former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been charged with sexually abusing eight boys during a 15-year period.

Did Paterno break any laws? It is too soon to speculate until the investigation is completed and all of the facts come to light. However, under Pennsylvania Code Title 23-Domestic Relations, Chapter 63-Child Protective Services, Section 6311-Persons required to report suspected child abuse, school teachers and school administrators are required to report suspected child abuse to the proper authorities. It is alleged that Paterno reported a 2002 allegation against Sandusky that he was made aware of to his superiors; but under Pennsylvania law did Paterno fulfill all of his reporting obligations?

Paterno is not just a coach to some of his players and other young men, he may also be a father figure. The allegation that Paterno did not do everything in his power to expose the truth about Sandusky and stop him from molesting other boys is very troubling.

If the allegations against Sandusky are true, it is possible that Penn State may have tremendous civil legal liability.
If Paterno, or any Penn State administrators knew Sandusky may have been violating the law while Sandusky was an employee or utilizing Penn State's facilities a strong civil case for negligence against Penn State may be successful.

Yesterday evening I read about a Facebook page entitled,"Joe Paterno should resign." Last night it had around 80 members. Less than 24 hours later there are more than 300 members and counting. Social Media has made this story spread like wild fire and I believe that the anger these allegations have created will lead to Paterno's departure in the very near future.

To learn more about social media crisis management in sports you may contact me at www.shearlaw.com.

Copyright 2011 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.

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