Penn State has received a preliminary report from the U.S. Department of Education about whether the university violated a federal campus security law, officials said Monday.
Penn State will not release details from report from the Education Department, whose review of the university’s compliance with the Clery Act was triggered by the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case in November 2011. The review period covers 13 years, from 1998 to 2011.
By law, the Education Department has to keep the report confidential at this stage, and Penn State said it would uphold the confidentiality.
“The university is committed to fully engaging in the review process and will maintain the confidentiality of the report,” Penn State officials said in a news release.
Penalties include monetary fines, and at worst, a loss of federal student aid.
The ball is now in Penn State’s court. With the receipt of the report, Penn State will begin preparing its response and will submit that to the Education Department, whose authorities then will issue what’s called a final program review determination.
U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, continues to follow the Education Department’s review, a spokesman said Monday.
The Clery Act requires universities to publicly report when crimes, such as sex offenses, homicides, robberies and other felonies, occur on campus or certain off-site locations, such as fraternity or sorority houses or remote classrooms. The law also requires universities to publish a daily log of reported crimes and the nature of the crime.
Penn State President Rodney Erickson previously has said the university expects the review to find violations of the Clery Act before November 2011.
“We’re certainly well aware of some deficiencies that we had in terms of compliance with the Clery Act,” Erickson said in November 2012, in an interview reflecting on the first year of the Sandusky scandal’s effect on Penn State.
Penn State could face fines of $27,500 for each violation after 2002. Before 2002, the fine is $25,000 per violation.
In the time since the review of Penn State started, the university hired a full-time Clery Act compliance director, Gabriel Gates, who since March 2012 has worked to set up protocols for reporting. The university also put in place mandatory Clery Act training for employees.
It’s also given the Education Department “unfettered access” to records and information, according to a news release.
The Freeh report, released a year ago, could point to possible violations, said Clery Act expert S. Daniel Carter, of the 32 National Campus Safety Initiative in Washington.
For instance, Carter said, there was not an appropriate policy or guideline in place to collect information about crimes from people who were supposed to report them. That was changed in 2007, he said, but over the next four years, only one report was made.
“The lack of that process would probably be the main finding,” Carter said.
The Freeh report itself says the university’s failure to fully implement the Clery Act contributed to the 2001 shower incident involving Sandusky not being reported.
Another violation could be in the 1998 shower incident that was investigated by university police but was not prosecuted. On Penn State’s crime log, the incident was referred to as an administrative matter and not a reported sexual offense.
Police logs are one of the numerous documents the Education Department requested from Penn State when the two sides met in late November 2011 to start the review. The department also wanted a list that showed who had Clery Act reporting duties, a list of time warnings and emergency notifications from 1998 to 2011, and copies of annual security reports that are required by the law.
Thompson will weigh in once further information is made available concerning the department’s report, his spokesman said.
Carter thinks Penn State’s penalty could be larger that the record $350,000 against Eastern Michigan University. In that case, Eastern Michigan officials said they did not suspect foul play in a female student’s death in late 2006 but the Education Department’s review found that authorities thought it was suspicious. Another student was charged with rape and murder two months later, and that’s when the university announced a crime had occurred.
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT.