Arne Duncan: If allegations are true, abuse in Penn State case is “sickening.”

Here are highlights of a pre-taped interview airing tonight on “Bloomberg EDU” with radio host Jane Stoddard Williams and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The program airs on on Bloomberg Radio, which is available on Sirius/ XM Channels 113.

(It will also be available on podcast.)

Duncan on the Penn State situation and whether the university violated the Clery Act:

“First of all, obviously we have to look at the Penn State situation specifically. But I think it gives us all as educators and as adults and parents pause just to think about what are we doing to protect our children. If these allegations prove to be true, it’s clearly just a devastating and heartbreaking tragedy, and as I’ve said before it just makes me extraordinarily angry that this kind of behavior was allowed to go on for so long unchecked.”

“When I was in Australia I worked with children who had been abused, and it’s the kind of thing you never want to see anyone experience. And to see this perhaps it went on so long…it’s mind-boggling to me. I just can’t fathom it.”

On how he will figure out if there was a failure to comply:

“We will have a team that will be on the campus shortly, and they will do a thoughtful and thorough investigation. And we’ll just go where the facts lead us.”

On his personal reaction to the story:

“It’s any parent’s, you know, worst nightmare. And I think about my son and daughter in 4th grade and 2nd grade, going to camps and going on field trips, and you really, really trust the adults to do the right thing. And obviously the overwhelming number of adults who work with children are in it for all the right reasons. But when you see this kind of behavior it’s just sickening. It’s absolutely sickening. And you just wish no child has to go through that. And the fact that so many children were possibly abused there, it’s stunning.”

On whether sports organizations are too powerful in education today:

“It’s a good question. I think the answer’s a complex one. There’s no black and white here. I think in many places the student athlete experience is fantastic and those students are students first and athletes second…the chance to be on a team, the chance to build those leadership skills, I think is an amazing, life-transforming opportunity for so many student athletes, and I know how personally lucky I was to be a part of that. So I think the vast majority of places do it well. Are there some universities where they have put the cart before the horse: where it’s athletes first and students second? Yes, and I’ve challenged that very hard with the NCAA. And as you saw recently, I’m very pleased NCAA actually made it much tougher for colleges that aren’t graduating their student athletes to participate in post-season play, and I think that’s a huge step in the right direction.”

On his reaction to Governor Rick Perry and others wanting to eliminate the DOE and get the federal government out of education:

“I don’t spend any time paying attention to the Republican presidential debates. I’ve got a real job to do and that’s my entire focus.”

On whether the GOP presidential candidates are serious about eliminating DOE:

“I have no idea if they are serious or not. I just haven’t spent any time, frankly, watching or following that. What I will say is that we’re always trying to think through what is the correct federal role…so I think there were some things going on at the federal level that weren’t helpful. And what do I think the appropriate role is? I think we have to continue to incentivize courage and reward excellence at the local level. The best ideas in education will never come from me and frankly from anyone else in Washington….”

On No Child Left Behind and the new ESEA bill being worked on:

“We hoped Congress would fix No Child Left Behind but unfortunately that just hasn’t happened…so in the absence of their action we just felt we couldn’t wait. And we got 11 applications in on Monday for the first set of states pursuing greater flexibility. We’ll have another opportunity in February and will probably have two or three dozen more states come in at that point. And again this is part of our huge attempt to be a much better partner with states…When they’re doing the right thing, we frankly want to get out of their way – give them a lot more room to move, a lot more room to be flexible and innovative, hold them accountable to that bar but let them figure out in their state the right thing to do is.”

“There are some good things in the bill, but you don’t want to walk away from accountability, you don’t want to walk away from focusing on achievement gaps, you don’t want to walk away from making sure we’re rewarding great teachers and great principals and shining a spotlight on excellence in education. So you want a good process, but at the end of the day you want really strong policy. And it’s early innings, obviously, in the bill that came out of the Senate HELP committee, and we think it can be strengthened going forward. So I applaud the work that’s gone on so far, clearly not a finished product, but a long way to go.”

On whether the prospect of waivers prompted Congressional action:

“Oh, no question. We really hoped that would be part of what would happen, so we’re very pleased to see that. Now I’ve said from day one that us doing waivers was actually my Plan B. I would have much preferred Congress to fix the law and fix the law for the entire country. But I just couldn’t wait…For me to sort of turn a deaf ear and just say ‘let’s all just sit on our hands and wait for Congress to get its act together one of these days,’ that would be just the height of arrogance and tone deafness on my part.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

21 comments Add your comment

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

November 18th, 2011
7:19 am

Schools at levels other than the college-level have been hiding “messes” for years, too. Unfortunately for duplicitous administrators, The People are sick of it.


November 18th, 2011
7:47 am

Love that response to whether sports organizations are too powerful….”good question” usually means “wait a sec, lemme get my shovel!” Mr. Duncan then gives the usual pablum on how great sports usually are without the few bad apples, followed by reassurance that some minor window dressing has been applied. Is that all you got, Arnie?

not telling

November 18th, 2011
8:39 am

Hang that sicko

Miss Priss!

November 18th, 2011
8:41 am

You mean … State Penn?


November 18th, 2011
8:41 am

I’m still trying to figure out why the Dept of Education would have a need to investigate a criminal activity such as Penn St. Seems to me that should be the job of the police and the DOE would merely muddy the waters at this point.

Are sports organizations too powerful?

Sorry. Snorted coffee through the nose on that one. Are you kidding me? Things were bad 35 years ago when TV consisted of three channels. Cable TV brought a suitcase of money and things have gotten out of hand. Head coaches are making millions, assistant coaches making six figure salaries, and athletic associations are raking in tens of millions (if not more). All of which depends on the win/loss ratio.

Wait for it, wait for it… “…focusing on achievement gaps…”

The politically correct will never get it.


November 18th, 2011
8:44 am

Head coaches are making millions, assistant coaches making six figure salaries, and athletic associations are raking in tens of millions (if not more). All of which depends on the win/loss ratio.

But enough about High School football, let’s talk colleges.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

November 18th, 2011
8:48 am

Arne Stalin finally has something to toot his horn about.
What a loser.

Dr. Proud Black Man

November 18th, 2011
9:04 am

I see that the nattering nabobs of negativity are up early this morning.

Beverly Fraud

November 18th, 2011
9:18 am

you don’t want to walk away from making sure we’re rewarding great teachers and great principals and shining a spotlight on excellence in education.

Duncan says all this, yet he’s the guy who came to Atlanta TWICE to prop up Beverly Hall even after it became apparent, to anybody with even a SHRED of integrity, that she was a central figure, if not outright guiding force of THE biggest cheating scandal in United States educational history.

But of course the AJC pretty much fawned over him the first time, so no wonder he felt EMBOLDENED to make the return trip.

Beverly Fraud

November 18th, 2011
9:20 am

LOL Aquagirl

Paddy O

November 18th, 2011
6:01 pm

This is classic federal over reach. The alleged abuse was not done by an educator, but an assistance head coach, on people he was NOT teaching, and if those kids had good parents, should have never even come in contact with. the knee jerk reaction is absolutely amazing. What the hell are the investigating? Do the feds funnel $$$ into college football programs?


November 18th, 2011
8:17 pm

Paddy O – I was thinking the same thing as he went on about his ‘real job’ and then went on to say how hard it was to overturn NCLB so they are doing temporary measures. If there was no DOE and control over schools was local , it would not be so hard to do away with bad ideas. Between that and the Penn State overreach , I would say his ‘real job’ is made up of a lot of work that could be done away with without much loss….

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

November 19th, 2011
12:10 am

Because our U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees that one has a right to write freely, the amendment does not imply that what one writes must be taken seriously by those who read it.

40 yr educator

November 19th, 2011
11:00 am

School systems receiving Federal funds have policies that are suppose to educate faculty and staff, including bus drivers, janitors, security, etc. of Sexual Harassment as defined in the law. Unfortunately, the implementation gets buried in the SOP/web site and lack of professional development workshops. This deficiency in the system breeds a culture like the Penn State crime! The US Office of Education should perform a sweeping investigation of Title VI & IX at all school systems, colleges and universities using the FBI as investigators. This culture of cover-up cannot continue!!

Paddy O

November 19th, 2011
11:01 pm

cover up? Remember, this case was in the hands of a DA (prosecutor) back in 2002 – so, how did the prosecutor get the case in 2002 if the police did NOT investigate? The trustees appear to me to be trying to cover their own asses by making a scapegoat out of Joe Pa – who not even involved in the crime. 40 yr – you really love having the federal gov’t blow your tax contribution, don’t you? You also seem to buy the liberal angle of a conspiracy, and think the feds should investigate ALL THE SCHOOLS? Are you really this deep into asinine idealism?

Paddy O

November 19th, 2011
11:03 pm

you want to see what fuels liberalisms’ knee jerk tendency? Please, read the assertions contained in 40 yr educators post of 11:00 am. What a bloody waste of time it would be to do what that “educator” feels is necessary. knee jerk is a prime characteristic of the liberal nutjobs.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

November 21st, 2011
2:41 am

Paddy O,

cover-up : bureaucracy :: bark : dog

To Paddy O from Good Mother

November 21st, 2011
11:15 am

Your comment that says “and if those kids had good parents, should have never even come in contact with.”

So what you are saying is that if a little boy does not havd a good parent, then we should just go ahead and let the 200 pound six foot tall former defensive lineman anally rape that little boy?

I suppose you think it’s his fault that he doesn’t have good parents? Are we to assume from your ridiculous words that all children don’t deserve protection from criminals?

EVERY CHILD deserves to be loved, cared for and PROTECTED regardless of who their parents are.

Your comments are shocking.


November 22nd, 2011
12:54 am

Right here in Fulton County there is a dirty little secret involving a twice convicted sex offender who also happens to be a former educator.
His likeness was painted into a mural honoring the founding administrators of a certain north Fulton elementary school.
I asked that he be removed from the mural three years ago. I was told that the mural was ‘historic’ and that my request would not be honored.
Yes, there is a culture of abnegation not just at Penn State, but here in the Peach State.
What do you all think of this?
Shocking and disappointing are two words from me.


November 22nd, 2011
12:58 am

Just want to add that I have emailed and called the superintendent of the Fulton County Schools and he has chosen not to respond to either of my correspondences.

Truth in Moderation

November 22nd, 2011
1:04 am

“Sickening” is an appropriate adjective. Just google “Conspiracy of Silence Part 1″ to find out about a similar story that took place in Nebraska a few years back.