Open Letter To PSU Students

Dear Penn State Students:

I come to you today to ask you to stop. Please, just stop.

Stop rioting, stop talking, stop chanting, stop.

I understand wholeheartedly how it feels to love your school so intensely. This situation isn’t about loving your school, though.  This situation isn’t about football or basketball or even superior academics.

This situation that’s unfolding, and will continue to unfold and get bigger, trumps anything school-related. It’s about people. Victims being irreparably damaged and adults not protecting children.

Students, I don’t expect you to really get it. You’re still young and naive. You don’t have the gift of experience and this probably seems like a crime against Paterno to you right now.

Let me tell you this.

This is bigger than Joe Paterno and his decades of coaching and hundreds of wins. This is bigger than national titles and bowl wins. 

Ten year old boys were allowed to be sexually assaulted and raped on school property with witnesses who yes, told their superiors, but who (allegedly) never followed up on it. HOW IN THE HELL DO THEY SLEEP AT NIGHT? How do the superiors, Joe Paterno, the AD, the President of the University sleep at night?

Students, do you think that if you saw that happen you would be able to sleep at night? Do you really think that you wouldn’t make sure somebody knew about it who would do something? What if this was your little cousin and you saw his coach raping him in the shower? Would you not protect him?

Maybe you wouldn’t. Maybe you’re too young to understand it all.

But let me tell you this. From this minute forward, you are educated and are no longer naive. You have knowledge about what to do if you see or hear or know about sexual abuse or rape. YOU TELL SOMEBODY. You tell a cop or a doctor or a teacher. You tell your parents or your best friend. Tell anybody who can help you get action going.

You call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673. 

You can save somebody’s life.

Even though the victims of this abuse are still living and being (I assume) productive members of society, they are forever changed. They have had their innocence and trust taken from them by somebody who, after he didn’t get caught the first time, got away with it.

I urge you to do this, students. Instead of appearing selfish and shallow, rioting because the Board of Directors fired your idol, kindly and firmly ask your school to continue making a statement. The statement needs to be that this won’t be tolerated and they don’t support anyone who had any knowledge of this. Anyone involved should be terminated and (in my opinion) prosecuted within the parameters of the law.

That statement will be bigger than you pushing over a news van. (Which, if they haven’t told you yet, your parents are disappointed in you for. They’re also disappointed that they didn’t teach you any better.)

I also urge you to learn about sexual abuse and child molestation. It’s a real problem. It’s not only sick and disgusting, but it’s life-changing for victims. It’s like bullying. I know you’ve been talked to about bullying. If you get bullied and you tell someone, the problem will be dealt with and future bullying victims can be spared. Same deal here, kids.

You’ll change a life. You’ll change LIVES.

So students of Penn State. Love your school. Hate what’s been done. But use your anger for good. Demand justice and then start rebuilding the reputation of your school. Joe Paterno’s not a fall-guy like you think. He’s an accomplice. Whether he legally did what he was supposed to or not, he morally didn’t.

He didn’t fight for kids he claimed to love.

Would he have fought for you?



If you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, raped or sexually abused OR know someone who has performed these acts on others, PLEASE use your voice to report them. Whether they are a family member, a friend, a co-worker, YOU WILL SAVE A LIFE and help protect other victims. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673. 

To teach your children about using their voice to say NO! and to empower them to tell a parent, teacher or other person who will help them, check out the book Fred The Fox Shouts NO! by Tatiana K. Matthews. 

 **I want to add another thought. I have several friends who are Penn State graduates, and they are devastated by this. They’re sad that Joe Paterno has had to go out like this, but mostly they are sad that these crimes weren’t reported. They are mad and upset and likely embarrassed. They love their school but some are having a hard time processing all of this. My friend Amy is one of those.

I’m also aware that the students rioting and acting like children don’t represent the entire student body. However, all students and parents and children can take lessons from this story.

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  1. ooof. i can’t bring myself to post about this. i just can’t, so i am especially grateful to you for posting about it in such an honest and helpful manner. and you know, i’ve shared it like everywhere. :) thank you jana.

    • Love you, Nic!

      • Auntie Freda says:

        Jana….Nic is a good friend of mine. I have been sick at my stomach for these children. I posted your response on my facebook….you said it all so well and from your heart. Thanks for speaking up. With love and Respect, Freda

        • Thank you so much, Freda. I’m sick for these kids (adults), too. And now it’s all being brought up again. Any small sense of peace they may have found over time has been ripped open like a wound. They will go on. PSU will go on. But the lesson these students can take from all of this is huge. It’s just bigger than their minds can fathom. Thank you for sharing and your wonderfully kind words. It poured out of my brain through my fingers this morning. :)

          • wow, jana. the reach you have with this post is astounding! i have so much love for freda and for you. just seeing the two of you connect because of your post makes my heart explode. you’re amazing.
            nic @mybottlesup recently posted..the noisesMy Profile

    • Auntie Freda says:

      I feel the same as you Nic, so I posted Jana’s response on my face book. No matter what happens, those children will be scarred for life. It will never go away completely. We MUST protect our children.

      Love Freda

  2. I am so upset by this whole thing. I woke up last night to turn off the ESPN Jeff had on the downstairs TV and saw the riot coverage and couldn’t get back to sleep. This is especially upsetting to me because although I didn’t go there, my family is a Penn State family. Both sides. My dad, uncles, aunts, cousins and my nephew is going on a recruiting trip there this weekend. I’m sad that the students there decided to support the moronic mistakes of stupid adults by making additional moronic mistakes. Penn State will get over this. Those little kids, who are now closer to adults WON’T.

  3. YES, Jana! YES!

    Thank you for this. It is so good.
    Tracie recently posted..Sometimes I Feel So Much GuiltMy Profile

  4. The students are immature and blinded by a lack of facts.

    I’m too angry and heartbroken over the victims ot pontificate further.

    Your post says everything, so well.
    Lance recently posted..The Joker and The ThiefMy Profile

  5. Thank you for this post, which I’ve shared on my blog’s Facebook page ( I think it’s an important message (and lesson) for everyone, not just the PSU students. I’m sick to my stomach over this. I can’t blog about it, so I’ll just continue sharing the words of people like you who can.
    Jaime recently posted..Living Self-Care: Part 2 of My JourneyMy Profile

    • Thanks for that and for sharing. It’s such a bad situation but as in every bad situation, there are BIG lessons to learn. These students are young enough to be molded but old enough to understand.

  6. This is not directed at you, Jana. You know I loves ya.

    Dear News Media Outlets,
    Please stop portraying 3% of the student body as though they are the entire student body. They are not. Not even close. Please make a statement regarding your abhorrent actions to not show the OTHER thousands of students that were out protesting aginst Joe Paterno and the administration and only show that which will get you ratings. Striving for ratings in this situation instead of the truth is disgusting and a serious error in judgement. Not to mention frustrating as hell.
    Please stop depicting the students rioting as representative of all 44000 students currently attenting University Park.
    It would be much appreciated.
    Thank you.
    Amy – PSU Alum

    I understand everyone’s disgust and alarm at the behavior of these students. But I would like to remind everyone that 3 – 5% of the entire human population could be classified as complete knuckleheads. Probably more. Obviously the media focuses on them… it always does. Sadly, it always will.
    Amy recently posted..I am… Penn State…My Profile

    • Oh, Amy. I totally agree. It’s DEFINITELY not all of them.
      But I do think there is a huge lesson for all students to learn. Not just PSU students, but all students.
      The media IS portraying it in a way that makes it appear that it’s all of them and obviously it’s not.
      I hope the letter to you didn’t sound mean. It wasn’t meant to be. :)

  7. As a victim of sexual abuse/molestation, this response and the responses of others rising in anger to his defense sickens and disheartens me.

    Thank you for writing this and saying what needs to be said. Doing what’s “legally” considered right isn’t enough.

    Out of all those protesting, I’m sure none of them are sexual abuse victims. If it were them….
    A’Driane Dudley recently posted..PSU: Mediocrity at it’s Finest (Worst)My Profile

  8. Thank you for putting into words what I cannot. My dad is a PSU Alum, and I know he is heartbroken that his school is being portrayed this way. It wasn’t the school; it was certain people within that school that didn’t do what they were supposed to do.

  9. It is a tragedy. It breaks my heart and makes me sick to my stomach. I sincerely hope none of the kids who are protesting ever have children who are molested. How would they live with themselves?
    Amelia recently posted.."…when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. "My Profile

  10. Thank you so much for putting to words what so many are thinking. Well written and well done.

    • Thank you so much. I hope it reaches people and makes them know it’s OK to report these things. They HAVE to. It’s not for them, it’s for the victims.

  11. This is a beautiful piece of writing. I am so glad you shared it in your comment on my blog. Everything you said was so true. I wonder what those students are thinking now in light of the report from yesterday. I wonder if they feel a little more remorseful for showing so much loyalty to a man who clearly was a coward. I wonder if they consider him a hero now.

    • Thank you! I wonder what they’re thinking now, too. I know they’re young and in love with their school and sometimes it’s hard to see through the foggy glass of loyalty. But one day they’ll look back and say, “I can’t believe I even thought for a second that I should pitch a fit about Paterno.” And then, when they are faced with having to report something terrible, they’ll know that it’s the RIGHT thing to do.


  1. […] Thinking Place” wrote an excellent piece about the PSU student riots. You can read it here: Open Letter To PSU Students – jana’s thinking place | jana’s thinking place. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Filed Under: RANTS Tagged With: football, joe […]

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