Our view: Work as a community to keep kids safeThe troubling tale of a youth basketball coach fired after child pornography allegedly was found on his work computer is a reminder that all of us — entire communities — can work together and can communicate more openly, honestly and thoroughly to keep kids safe.
The troubling tale of a youth basketball coach fired after child pornography allegedly was found on his work computer is a reminder that all of us — entire communities — can work together and can communicate more openly, honestly and thoroughly to keep kids safe.
Peter Jay Olson was fired from the Duluth Salvation Army in November. But Lake Park Little League parents said in a story in Sunday’s News Tribune they didn’t find out until late June that the 47-year-old was being investigated on suspicion of viewing child pornography and the sexual assault of a preteen boy.
That’s seven months later — and after several weeks of baseball practices had started, led by Olson, a coach of 15 years for Lake Park Little League in Duluth in addition to coaching basketball at the Salvation Army since 1988. When Duluth police found out Olson was coaching little leaguers this spring, officers instructed him to stop.
Who can blame parents for being troubled, disturbed and outraged? What parent doesn’t want or even expect to receive any and all information pertaining to the safety and well-being of their child?
The Northland is fortunate to have resources to help parents talk to their children about any suspicions. Experts also are available to talk with children and help children. And it’s important for children to know when abuse is happening to them — and to report it.
The resources include the First Witness Child Abuse Resource Center in Duluth, (218) 727-8353, and the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Initial Intervention Unit, (218) 726-2012.
Any parent or anyone else who suspects anything, or who knows of abuse,
shouldn’t hesitate to contact authorities. They owe it to their community; abusers can target more than one victim.
“Start getting that child the help they need and get them removed from a dangerous situation, or make sure the abuser is removed,” Duluth police Lt. Mike Ceynowa said in the Sunday story.
Olson is the second Salvation Army Rookie Basketball Association coach charged with sexual assault in the past year. While he and others who stand accused always are presumed innocent until proven guilty, the reality of two investigations in a relatively short period of time is enough to cause the association and other youth organizations to ask what more they could be doing to protect the children they serve. What more could all of us be doing?
Thorough background checks of adults hired to coach, teach or mentor kids are critical, First Witness Executive Director Beth Olson said in a follow-up story in Monday’s News Tribune. Groups also can search a national database not only of convictions but of investigations and charges. “That would be the ideal,” she said.
Youth organizations also should have firm policies, in writing, for staff, parents and children to follow, including the forbidding of one-on-one time between children and adults.
The Boy Scouts are among organizations that follow that simple, makes-sense rule. Voyageurs Area Council Scout Executive and CEO David Nolle of Duluth told the newspaper for Monday’s story scout leaders also work to educate kids that there isn’t a fail-safe method to screen out abusers. So recognize anyone can be a child molester, resist advances and report abuse to a trusted adult, scouts are taught, according to Nolle.
All kids could be taught the same three r’s.
And all of us can be diligent about reporting abuse, always, and about being willing to talk about this too-oft-taboo issue openly, honestly, thoroughly — and as a community.