The U.S. Department of Education today announced that it is seeking to impose on Penn State University a record fine of nearly $2.4 million for failing to comply with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act after a comprehensive review prompted by on-campus sex offenses involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
The penalty – the largest ever assessed for Clery violations – covers 11 serious findings of Clery Act noncompliance related to the University’s handling of Sandusky’s crimes and the university’s longstanding failure to comply with federal requirements on campus safety and substance abuse. Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing several young boys over multiple years, including several incidents on campus.
“For colleges and universities to be safe spaces for learning and self-development, institutions must ensure student safety – a part of which is being transparent about incidents on their campuses. Disclosing this information is the law,” said U.S. Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell. “When we determine that an institution is not upholding this obligation, then there must be consequences.”
Under the Clery Act, colleges and universities must report to the public each year the number of criminal offenses on campus and report that information to the Department which provides it to the public. In addition, in certain cases, the institution must issue a timely warning if a reported crime represents a threat to the campus community. The institution must also have campus crime and security policies in a number of areas and disclose those polices to their students and employees.
Soon after Sandusky was indicted in November 2011, the Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid launched an investigation of Penn State’s compliance with the Clery Act. The investigation, officially known as a campus crime program review, looked at the university’s compliance from 1998 to 2011 because the allegations of abuse covered that 14-year span.
- Finding #1: Clery Act violations related to the Sandusky matter (proposed fine: $27,500).
- Finding #2: Lack of administrative capability as a result of the University’s substantial failures to comply with the Clery Act and the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act throughout the review period, including insufficient training, support, and resources to ensure compliance (proposed fine: $27,500).
- Finding #3: Omitted and/or inadequate annual security report and annual fire safety report policy statements (proposed fine: $37,500).
- Finding #4: Failure to issue timely warnings in accordance with federal regulations.
- Finding #5: Failure to properly classify reported incidents and disclose crime statistics from 2008-2011 (proposed fine: $2,167,500).
- Finding #6: Failure to establish an adequate system for collecting crime statistics from all required sources (proposed fine: $27,500).
- Finding #7: Failure to maintain an accurate and complete daily crime log.
- Finding #8: Reporting discrepancies in crime statistics published in the annual security report and those reported to the department’s campus crime statistics database (proposed fine: $27,500).
- Finding #9: Failure to publish and distribute an annual security report in accordance with federal regulations (proposed fine: $27,500).
- Finding #10: Failure to notify prospective students and employees of the availability of the annual security report and annual fire safety report (proposed fine: $27,500).
- Finding #11: Failure to comply with the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (proposed fine: $27,500).
Penn State responded to each of the Department’s findings. After a careful analysis of the university’s response, the Department sustained all findings.
The Clery Act was passed by Congress in 1990, requiring colleges and universities participating in federal financial aid programs to track and disclose information about crime on or near campus. The Department is required by law to conduct periodic reviews of an institution’s compliance with the Clery Act. These reviews may be initiated when a complaint is received, a media event raises concerns, a school’s independent audit identifies areas of noncompliance, or other reasons.
Until now, the previous highest fine was in 2007 when FSA assessed a fine of $357,500 against Eastern Michigan Universityfor violations of the Clery Act. Under a settlement, Eastern Michigan paid a fine of $350,000.
Campus crime statistics can be found at the Department’s Campus Safety and Security database. For more information, see The Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting 2016 Edition and the Department’s Campus Security website.
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