Survey: Penn State Scandal Similar to Catholic Church Abuse

As the Penn State sex abuse scandal continues to unfold, with former Penn State Defensive Coach Jerry Sandusky being charged with sexually abusing several young boys over several years, Widmeyer Communications' Polling and Research department has released a survey measuring the American public's attitude to the Penn State controversy.

The results show an alarming correlation between how two-thirds of Americans compare the sex abuse scandal at Penn State to the recent Catholic Church abuse scandal.

The survey also shows what impact the scandal has had on college sports in general:

Seven in 10 (72%) say that Division I athletic programs have too much influence on college life while Americans are split down the middle on whether they would discourage a child from attending a Division I school that places a strong emphasis on sports, with four in 10 (40%) likely to discourage.

"The results that we uncovered in our new survey are a striking message to once untouchable institutions that business as usual cannot continue," says Scott Widmeyer, Chairman and CEO of Widmeyer Communications.

"Our survey confirms what the media and public have been whispering and alluding to for weeks – that two-thirds of the American public see similarities between both the recent Penn State and Catholic Church sex abuse scandals."

Saying he is "sickened" by the scandal, state Sen. Juan Vargas is set to announce legislation to crack down on coaches and athletic directors who fail to report crimes in California, as reported by Michael Gardner at Sign On San Diego.

The San Diego Democrat said his measure will amend existing California law to add athletic directors and coaches to an existing list of those required to report to police any cases of suspected child abuse or neglect, citing a current loophole in California law that could potentially allow those who witness or know of attacks on children to escape punishment.

Vargas is seizing the high-profile issue as his Congressional campaign to replace Democrat Bob Filner continues. He also proposes an increase jail time and fines for "mandated reporters" who fail to comply, with a possible conviction of harsher felony charges if the abuse resulted in death or great bodily harm.

But it's too soon to tell how keen the Legislature would be to pass laws that increase costly jail times, as tighter budgets has shifted of some state inmates to counties.

Vargas appreciates that, but said "this has got to be an exception. It's an absolute injustice."

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