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Federal Officials to Begin Clery Act Investigation at Penn State

on November 28, 2011 7:00 AM

Per its announced schedule, the U.S. Department of Education will open Monday a formal inquiry at Penn State, the university confirmed over the weekend.

Specifically, the investigation will look at whether Penn State has complied with the federal Clery Act, education officials have said. The act requires many universities to disclose complete annual crime statistics and to issue rapid warnings when reported crimes may threaten a campus community.

"We are making every effort to provide the review team with immediate access to all requested records and information sources pertaining to all aspects of Clery Act compliance," Penn State President Rodney Erickson said in a prepared statement. "The notification letter (from the U.S. education department) included a long list of information the committee needs, and we have been busy gathering as much of that information in advance of their visit as possible."

In a Nov. 9 letter, federal education officials informed the Penn State administration that the investigation would be forthcoming. It's one of several inquiries initiated since criminal charges were filed Nov. 5 against former PSU football coach Jerry Sandusky and two longtime university administrators: Gary Schultz and Tim Curley.

Sandusky is accused of an extended pattern of child sexual abuse; Schultz and Curley, of perjury and failure to report. Some abuse incidents are alleged to have happened on Penn State property.

All three men have, through their lawyers, maintained that they're innocent.

Still, Arne Duncan, the U.S. education secretary, has issued a public statement on the matter.

"If these allegations of sexual abuse are true then this is a horrible tragedy for those young boys," Duncan said in the statement, released Nov. 9. "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."

State prosecutors have alleged that Schultz and Curley failed to report properly an on-campus sexual-abuse allegation involving Sandusky. But Schultz and Curley have contested that claim. In a statement last week to The Daily Collegian, an attorney for Schultz said his client had not been told specifics of an alleged child rape in 2002.

The crime-disclosure standards outlined in the Clery Act apply specifically to universities that participate in federal financial-aid programs. U.S. officials may set civil penalties for, and suspend from federal student-financial-aid programs, institutions that do not comply with the act.

According to federal and Penn State documents, the federal investigative team visiting the University Park campus will interview employees who have campus-security, police, residential-life, student-affairs, athletics, Greek-life and other responsibilities.

"All relevant offices should be advised to provide accurate, complete and timely responses to requests from the review team," reads an education-department letter sent to Penn State. "Our access to employees and students for the purposes of conducting interviews is an essential part of the campus security program review process."

The U.S. Department of Education has not announced a time frame for the completion of its work. A PDF download of its letter to Penn State is available here; a Penn State statement is available here. All related and earlier StateCollege.com coverage is available via the page linked below.

Earlier coverage

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