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Barack Obama: Penn State Scandal Has Wider Lessons, Calls Sex Abuse Case 'Heartbreaking'

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KAPOLEI, Hawaii -- President Barack Obama says the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State has an important message for institutions far beyond college sports: that protecting children is more important than shielding institutions.

Obama has called the case, which ended the career of longtime head coach Joe Paterno, "heartbreaking." He and other school officials were faulted for not doing enough after allegations that a one-time assistant coach abused young boys.

At a news conference Sunday after the APEC summit in Hawaii, Obama said college athletic programs are fun and can be important. But he said the excitement they generate shouldn't get in the way of protecting vulnerable youngsters. And he says the lesson is that when people see something wrong, they have to "step up."

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