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More Trouble Brewing for Penn State in Wake of Sex Abuse Crisis

Although former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky has been convicted of child-sex-abuse crimes, several civil investigations continue, including whether the university violated a federal campus-safety law, the Clery Act. The Clery Act requires prompt public alerts of safety threats and annual disclosure of crime statistics.

Five days after Jerry Sandusky was arrested, the United States Department of Education launched an investigation into Penn State’s compliance with the Clery Act. The crux of whether Penn State violated the Clery Act lies in the following question: when school officials were alerted to Sandusky’s behavior, did they meet legal requirements for documenting those incidents and announcing any threats? Last week, in a report Penn State commissioned, former FBI director Louis Freeh used the word “failure” to describe Penn State’s implementation of the Clery Act. Specifically, as of November 2011, Penn State’s Clery Act policy was still in draft form and had not been formally implemented. Moreover, the Freeh report states “the football program, in particular, opted out of most of the University’s Clery Act, sexual abuse awareness and summer camp procedures training.”

The ultimate penalty under the Clery Act, which was signed into law in 1990, is loss of federal aid funding. Officials have never gone that far; however, they have fined violators. The largest Clery Act penalty administered to date was in 2007 to Eastern Michigan University for $357,500. Eastern Michigan University was fined for failing to notify the campus community that a student had been murdered in her dorm room in December 2006 and that the killer was at large.

If you or someone you know has been harmed by institutional cover up of child sex abuse, contact the attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-396-3964 or 800-594-4884.

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