PSU required to change procedures for complaints of sexual abuse

Local News

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (WTAJ) — U.S. Secretary of Education announced today that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is requiring major changes at Pennsylvania State University after finding that the school failed to protect students and address their complaints of sexual abuse in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

The prior administration failed to resolve the investigation, which opened in early 2014. 

“As I’ve said before, ‘justice delayed is justice denied,’ and for too long the students of Penn State have been denied justice,” said Secretary DeVos.

With the conclusion of this investigation, OCR is holding Penn State accountable for its failures to have systems in place that protect students, including when sexual misconduct involves athletic staff.  

OCR reviewed University policies and procedures for resolving allegations of sexual harassment effective during the 2011-12 through the 2019-20 academic years.

The review was focused on eight campuses: the University Park campus and the Altoona, Behrend (Erie), Berks, Harrisburg, Hazelton, Schuylkill, and Worthington Commonwealth campuses and conducted file reviews of complaints of sexual harassment.

OCR found that the University violated Title IX in different ways across several years:

  • During the 2016-2017 academic year for student complaints and the 2015-2016 and 2017-2018 academic years for complaints first reported to the Athletic Department, Penn State failed to appropriately respond to complaints of sexual harassment.
  • During the 2016-17 academic year, the University failed to maintain records necessary for OCR to determine whether the University complied with Title IX. During the 2017-2018 through the 2019-2020 academic years, the University continued to fail to implement adequate record-keeping practices.
  • During the 2019-20 academic year, the University’s Title IX policies and procedures failed to provide adequate notice to students and employees of the procedures; to ensure fair and appropriate investigation of complaints; to provide procedures for complaints alleging discrimination based on sex carried out by employees and third parties; to provide designated and reasonably prompt timeframes for the major stages of the complaint process; and to provide notice to parties of the outcome of investigations of complaints.

As a result of the serious deficiencies found by OCR’s investigation, OCR and Penn State have entered into a ‘Resolution Agreement’ that requires Penn State to take the following actions:

  • Provide for individual remedies as appropriate for instances where it has not promptly and equitably processed complaints of sexual harassment.
  • Report to OCR on its processing of sexual harassment complaints for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years.
  • Review and revise its Title IX policies to ensure they provide for an appropriate response to complaints of sexual harassment.
  • Revise its recordkeeping practices to ensure that it is adequately and accurately documenting all complaints of sexual harassment and the University’s response to such complaints.
  • Facilitate additional relevant Title IX training for University staff, including athletics staff.
  • Notify participants in its youth programs and their parents and guardians that Title IX prohibits sexual harassment against youth participants.

The Letter of Finding in the Pennsylvania State University case is available here. The Resolution Agreement is available here.

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