Avoiding Trouble: What Nonprofits Can Learn From Sex-Abuse Scandal

Emily and I wrote an op-ed on lessons to be learned from the The Second Mile / Sandusky Scandal published yesterday in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.  We'll publish a more comprehensive version of our article in December.


The child sex abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, Pennsylvania State University, and The Second Mile has devastated individuals, seriously harmed the reputation of a state institution, and jeopardized the existence of a charity serving more than 100,000 children annually.

Sandusky was indicted in November following a three-year investigation into reported sexual assaults of young boys by Sandusky over a period of about 15 years. The Grand Jury reported its finding that Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach and founder of The Second Mile, used the charity to find his victims and sexually assaulted them, at times on the university campus.  Shortly after, Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior Vice President Gary Schultz were charged with perjury and vacated their positions, Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno and President Graham B. Spanier were fired, and The Second Mile CEO Jack Raykovitz resigned. Further fallout is to be expected as Penn State, The Second Mile, the NCAA, and the U.S. Department of Education have all initiated their own investigations; and the media continues to cover the riveting story, which remains to be only partly told and filled with conflicting statements, still unsubstantiated allegations of further misconduct, and rumors of a vast cover-up.

For organizations working with children, this is a serious reminder that tragically high rates of child abuse cannot be ignored in their operations, policies, and practices. But there are broader lessons to be learned from the Sandusky scandal for all nonprofits.