The U.S. Department of Education notified Penn State today that the agency will be investigating whether the university broke federal law in failing to report allegations of sex abuse by an assistant football coach who worked under the famed Joe Paterno. UPDATE [11/11, 7:41 a.m.]: Read the letter, including a list of documents investigators want to see, and other demands, here.
The Education Department’s jurisdiction is via the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, or Clery Act for short.
Former Penn State Defensive Coach Jerry Sandusky has been charged with sexually abusing several young boys over several years, including incidents on campus.
According to the Education Department, the Clery Act requires colleges and universities to disclose the number of criminal offenses on campus that are reported each year. In addition, in certain cases, the institution must issue a timely warning if a reported crime represents a threat to the campus community.
In 2011, the Education Department used the Clery Act to fine Virginia Tech $55,000 for failing to warn students about a shooting rampage that claimed 33 lives.
The Office of Federal Student Aid will investigate Pennsylvania State University, which was notified by letter today. The department said the Office of Civil Rights will also be monitoring the situation.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement: “If these allegations of sexual abuse are true then this is a horrible tragedy for those young boys. If it turns out that some people at the school knew of the abuse and did nothing or covered it up, that makes it even worse. Schools and school officials have a legal and moral responsibility to protect children and young people from violence and abuse.”
And for more about Duncan’s reaction to the scandal, and the lessons for high school sports teams, read this Schooled in Sports blog post.
Photo: Penn State football coach Joe Paterno arrives home on Nov. 9 in State College, Pa. Paterno said in a statement Wednesday he is “absolutely devastated” by the developments in the case of Jerry Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator accused of molesting eight boys over 15 years. (Matt Rourke/AP)