By MARK SCOLFORO
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP)- Federal officials looking into how Penn State handled complaints about Jerry Sandusky slapped the school with a record $2.4 million fine on Thursday, saying it violated requirements about reporting campus crimes and warning people if their safety is threatened.
The fine was the result of a five-year investigation that began shortly after Sandusky was arrested in 2011, raising questions about what administrators had known about the former assistant football coach, now serving decades in prison for child molestation.
The U.S. Department of Education concluded that Penn State largely ignored many of its duties under the 1990 Clery Act.
Ted Mitchell, under secretary at the Education Department, said transparency about what happens on campus helps ensure that colleges and universities are safe.
“When we determine that an institution is not upholding this obligation, then there must be consequences,” Mitchell said.
The Education Department found the school violated regulations when it did not warn students and employees of the forthcoming charges against Sandusky, who was convicted in 2012 of 45 counts of child sexual abuse and is due in court Friday as he seeks to have the conviction thrown out or a new trial.
Penn State said the report was being reviewed and noted that since 2011 it has implemented “robust” training and collection processes under the Clery Act.
The school said Clery Act procedures “cannot be an end unto itself, but is rather part of a broader culture of compliance. We will continue our numerous and vigorous efforts to create a culture of reporting, safety and accountability.”
The Education Department said Penn State’s police department concealed its investigation into a 1998 report involving Sandusky and a boy in a team shower. Police did not record the matter on its daily crime log even though university policy required that the log describe the type, location and time of every criminal incident.
The university argued that police lacked sufficient clarity about what happened to determine the interaction rose to the level of a sex offense, and since it wasn’t clear that a crime occurred, there was no need to record it on the crime log.
But the Education Department noted that campus police recorded far less serious matters on their log, including a man sleeping in a stairwell, a slip-and-fall in a public shower and a special tour of police headquarters given to a Girl Scout troop.
“In light of these entries, Penn State’s contention that the reported incident of a middle-aged man inappropriately touching an 11-year-old boy, while naked and showering with him, did not rise to the level for inclusion in the daily crime log strains credulity,” the Education Department wrote in its report .
Penn State’s handling of complaints about Sandusky arose with his arrest in 2011 as two senior university officials were accused of covering up the matter. The officials, then-athletic director Tim Curley and then-vice president Gary Schultz, still await trial in Harrisburg along with former Penn State president Graham Spanier on charges of endangering the welfare of children and failing to properly report suspected abuse.
The school’s athletic department was also scrutinized by federal investigators, who said then-head coach Joe Paterno once had his secretary email Spanier and Curley to say he would take care of disciplining players involved in a fight at an off-campus apartment building in 2007.
Paterno then had a text message sent to players telling them that 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.
In 2009, a football player who stood accused of a serious sex crime was called into the Office of Student Conduct for an interview. According to Student Conduct officials, the player’s first question was, “Does football know I’m here?”