Penn State won’t fight $2.4M fine for lax crime reporting

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Penn State said Friday it won’t fight a $2.4 million fine stemming from a five-year federal investigation that found the university repeatedly violated campus crime reporting requirements, including in the case of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is now serving decades in prison on child sexual abuse charges.

Penn State President Eric Barron said the university is paying the record fine even though it disagrees with some of the findings in a 239-page investigative report released by the U.S. Department of Education this month.

Investigators found that Penn State failed to comply with various aspects of the 1990 campus crime reporting law known as the Clery Act, including not issuing warnings about potential threats and underreporting crimes in annual statistics submitted to the government.

Barron said Penn State has made a significant commitment to preventing sex crimes and ensuring strict compliance with campus crime reporting requirements.

All employees are now trained on the issues surrounding sex crimes and their responsibilities in reporting crimes, Barron said. The university has also established a telephone hotline and an online system for anonymously reporting sex crimes, he said.

“It is Penn State’s goal to not only meet the standards articulated by the Department of Education, as we believe we currently do, but to set a new standard for Clery compliance in higher education,” Barron said.

Investigators cited Penn State for twice failing to warn students and employees about Sandusky — after administrators were told he abused a boy in a team shower in 2001 and as officials were being summoned to a grand jury and the scope of his behavior was becoming clearer a decade later.

The Department of Education said Penn State’s police department concealed its investigation into an earlier report involving Sandusky and a boy in a team shower. Police didn’t record the 1998 matter on their daily crime log even though university policy required the log describe the type, location and time of every criminal incident.

The university argued that police couldn’t determine whether the interaction rose to the level of a sex offense and because it was unclear a crime occurred, there was no need to log it. But the Department of Education noted campus police logged far less serious matters, including someone sleeping in a stairwell.

Sandusky, arrested in 2011 and convicted in 2012, is serving 30 to 60 years in prison. He maintains his innocence and is appealing.

Former athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz await trial along with former president Graham Spanier on charges of endangering the welfare of children and failing to properly report suspected abuse. They deny the accusations against them.

The Department of Education report also said Penn State fostered a belief among athletes that rules didn’t apply to them.

In one instance, then-head coach Joe Paterno had his secretary email administrators to say he’d take care of disciplining players involved in an off-campus fight, the report said.

In another, Paterno had a text message sent to players telling them if they went to the university’s judicial affairs to answer code-of-conduct complaints, they’d be “thrown off the team,” the report said.

The previous record Clery Act fine was $357,500 against Eastern Michigan University in 2007, reduced to $350,000 in a settlement.

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