Penn State Scandal Shows Why Charities Should Background Check Members with Access to Vulnerable Populations

While the majority of the media coverage in the recent Penn State University sex abuse scandal focused on the firing of legendary PSU football coach Joe Paterno over questions about how much he knew about the alleged sex crime incidents involving his former longtime assistant and once heir apparent Jerry Sandusky, the more compelling story may be how the 67-year-old Sandusky – who faces a 40 count indictment (WARNING: Graphic Material) that includes 21 felonies and 19 misdemeanors that allege he molested boys – may have possibly used the charity that he founded for underprivileged boys to find the victims of his alleged crimes.

According to Page 1 of the 23-page Grand Jury Presentment (WARNING: Graphic Material), Sandusky “founded The Second Mile, a charity initially devoted to helping troubled young boys. It was within The Second Mile program that Sandusky found his victims.” Later on Page 1, the Grand Jury Presentment states that “Sandusky started ‘The Second Mile’ in State College, Pennsylvania, in 1977. It began as a group foster home dedicated to helping troubled boys. It grew into a charity dedicated to helping children with absent or dysfunctional families. It is now a statewide, three region charity and Sandusky has been its primary fundraiser. The Second Mile raises millions of dollars through fundraising appeals and special events. The mission of the program is to ‘help children who need additional support and would benefit from positive human interaction.’ Through The Second Mile, Sandusky had access to hundreds of boys, many of whom were vulnerable due to their social situations.”

Sandusky – who retired from The Second Mile in September of 2010 and who maintained his innocence in a recent interview with Bob Costas (Transcript) – was released on $100,000 bail and faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted. Former Penn State football coach Paterno, who has not been charged with a crime, became embroiled in the scandal when questions arose if he did enough by just reporting an alleged incident in 2002 to his superiors at the University after being told by a graduate assistant of an eyewitness account of Sandusky having inappropriate contact with a 10-year-old boy in a shower.

According to a story in the New York Times, The Second Mile charity that Sandusky founded may be forced to fold in the wake of the scandal. The Times reported that the Pennsylvania attorney general indicated Sandusky used the charity “to prey on young boys” and that he met each of the eight alleged victims through the foundation. The Times also reported that the Second Mile declined to answer questions about what steps were taken “to limit or monitor Sandusky’s interactions” with the youths in the program after Sundusky himself revealed to the charity in 2008 that he was under investigation for another incident involving inappropriate contact.

The sensational and troublesome nature of the Penn State scandal should not overshadow the basic need for organizations such as charities to protect the vulnerable populations that they aim to protect: the elderly, the informed, people with special needs, and – in the Sandusky case – children. One way of protecting vulnerable populations is by performing background checks on members and volunteers for charities and other non-profit organizations to avoid “bad hires” of workers too unfit, unqualified, dishonest, and dangerous for jobs with access to vulnerable people.

For more information for background screening solutions for ‘Volunteer, Youth & Faith-Based Organizations,’ visit For more information about backgruond checks in general, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a nationwide background check provider accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) – at

About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):
Founded in 1997 in the San Francisco, CA area,
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by ESR Founder and CEO Lester Rosen. ESR streamlines the screening process and reduces administrative overhead though its proprietary technology solutions.  ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®), a distinction held by less than two percent of all screening firms. This important recognition was achieved by successfully passing a third party audit demonstrating compliance with the NAPBS Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about ESR, visit

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