Local Colleges Focus on Reporting Requirements in Wake of Penn State Scandal

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In the wake of the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State, policies and procedures for reporting such incidents on college campuses have come under more intense scrutiny.

Experts and college officials said that reporting of sexual offenses has improved as a result of federal and state laws that have been put in place, as well as resources offered to students.

Laurie Pine, spokeswoman for Seton Hall, said that she made sure over the weekend that the University’s policies relating to sex offenses were readily accessible. But no changes in the aftermath of the Penn State scandal were planned.

“We have strong, serious policies in place here,” Pine said. “We always are looking at our policies, but we feel this is a very serious issue and we will do whatever it takes to hold the mutual respect and dignity of every person.”

Rutgers, New York University and Hofstra did not respond to questions about their policies.

A spokesperson for Columbia University stated: “Whenever our Public Safety department has evidence of a crime, we report it to the NYPD, with whom we work closely.” In other words, they follow the current law.

The Clery Act, signed into law in 1990, requires colleges and universities that receive federal funding to disclose information about crimes that happen on and around campus property. It was named after Jeanne Clery, who was murdered in her dorm room at Lehigh University in 1986.

The U.S. Department of Education has launched an investigation to see if Penn State failed to comply with the Clery Act. Its legendary football coach, Joe Paterno, was fired last week, after one of his former assistant coaches, Jerry Sandusky, was charged with sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years. Paterno has come under scrutiny over failing to notify authorities when he was informed of one incident that took place at the Lasch Football building.

New York State Assemblymen James Tedisco and George Amedore announced last week they will introduce new legislation that will make college coaches, athletic directors, professors, deans and administrators mandated reporters of child abuse.

Currently, New York State law defines many professions, such as teachers, guidance counselors, high school coaches, doctors and nurses as mandated reporters. Because many college professionals, Tedisco and Amedore said, come into contact with children, through youth programs hosted by colleges and universities, they should fall under the same category.

“The reports of child abuse by Penn State's assistant football coach and seeming indifference and inaction from the school's administration are horrifying,” Tedisco said. “We need to make sure that a situation like what occurred at Penn State does not happen in New York.”

Tedisco said he has received support from both party’s representatives in the Assembly and the Senate and said the bill could be introduced as early as January.