U.S. News

Penn State fined $2.4 million for failures related to Sandusky child abuse

Convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky (C), a former assistant football coach at Penn State University, leaves after his appeal hearing at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania October 29, 2015. REUTERS/Pat Little/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Penn State University was hit with a $2.4 million fine on Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education for its mishandling of child molestation complaints against convicted former football coach Jerry Sandusky.

The department issued the penalty alongside a scathing 239-page report that capped a five-year investigation into how the school complied with a federal law, the Clery Act, requiring schools to report campus crimes and warn students of any danger.

The school violated the law when it failed to alert its students and employees that Sandusky was going to be criminally charged in 2011, according to the department. Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child abuse, and several Penn State officials face separate charges for not reporting Sandusky earlier to authorities.

The fine is the largest the Education Department has ever levied under the Clery Act.

The probe examined Penn State’s compliance from 1998 to 2011, during which prosecutors said Sandusky engaged in multiple acts of child abuse, including some on campus. The report faulted officials for allowing Sandusky full access to the school’s facilities even as criminal charges were imminent.

“In short, a man who was about to be charged with violent crimes against defenseless minors was free to roam the Penn State campus, as he pleased,” the report said. “Reviewers determined that Penn State’s University Park campus was a beehive of activity for children, yet the University failed to issue an emergency notification when senior officials knew of the forthcoming charges against Sandusky.”

Investigators also said Penn State failed to provide crime statistics and reports as required by the Clery Act.

In a statement, the school said it has taken significant steps since then to fix the problems identified in the report, including 18 initiatives focused specifically on combating sexual assault and misconduct.

“While regrettably we cannot change the past, today the university has been recognized for significantly strengthening our programs since 2011,” Penn State said. “The safety and security of our university community is a top priority.”

Reporting by Joseph Ax and Laila Kearney in New York; Additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker