Penn State Under Federal Investigation

By Mallory Lane

Published 01/27 2014 05:58PM

Updated 01/27 2014 06:29PM

PENN STATE, UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State is under federal investigation for their handling of sexual assault complaints and compliance with Title IX.

The number of sex offenses reported to University Police have dramatically increased in the two years since Jerry Sandusky was indicted on child sex abuse charges.

Now, the U.S. Department of Education is investigating whether or not the university handled complaints in previous years properly.

Experts at Penn State say the news of the federal investigation is no surprise. They say since the Sandusky scandal broke, more people in the community are aware of how to report sexual assault crimes and are more comfortable doing so.

"This is expectable," Peggy Lorah, Director of the Women Center, said. "It makes sense that they would be looking at a variety of schools and I think a big school like Penn State would be a prime candidate for having that kind of audit done."

Lorah isn't surprised.

"People are more aware of reporting in a different way," she said. "It's also true that some of the reports that are higher that we've seen are really because they're reports from the past."

According to the Penn State Annual Security Report, in 2010, four reports of forcible sexual assaults on campus were reported to University Police. That number jumped to 24 in 2011 and nearly doubled in 2012, with 56 reports of forcible sex assault crimes on campus.

But Penn State says some of the cases happened between 1970 and 2011, and they were just now being reported.

"It's shocking because I know I feel totally safe and having that happen to somebody else, it's really sad," Penn State Junior Meghan MaCarty said.

Like Penn State, MaCarty credits Jerry Sandusky for the change.

"My freshman year was when the Sandusky thing happened, so I think since then, people are a lot more aware," she said.

Lorah says since the scandal broke, Penn State has made several changes, including adding mandated training for faculty and staff. She says the added awareness shows through in the numbers.

"We're seeing other schools look at the way they're doing training and reporting very differently, based on some of the things we've learned here at Penn State," Lorah said.

Penn State Spokesperson Lisa Powers says the university understands the probe and is looking forward to working with the Office for Civil Rights in review of their compliance with Title IX.

This is the second time the U.S. Department of Education has investigated Penn State for compliance. The first time, looking at whether or not Penn State violated the Clery Act.

Copyright 2015 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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