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Penn State Violated Clery Act Prompted by Murder at Lehigh

The murder of a Lehigh University student inspired federal law requiring colleges to report crimes.

Editor's Note: Coming Sunday on Patch - Jailed sex offenders like Jerry Sandusky can still collect state pensions.

Penn State officials violated the Clery Act - a federal law inspired by the , according to an independent investigation led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.

Jeanne Clery was raped and killed in her dorm room at Lehigh 26 years ago - a tragedy that led her parents to lobby state legislatures and Congress to pass more than 35 laws on campus safety, including the federal Jeanne Clery Act, which requires reporting of crimes and security policies. 

The most powerful officials at Penn State actively worked to cover up Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse and rape of children, failing to protect them against a sexual predator for more than a decade, according to an internal investigation released Thursday.

The report on the investigation indicts President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President‐Finance and Business Gary Schultz (a Lehigh Valley native), Athletic Director Timothy Curley and late head football Coach Joe Paterno for showing "no concern" about alleged victims of Sandusky, the onetime assistant football coach.

"These men concealed Sandusky's activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities," the report stated. "They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky's victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well‐being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001," when then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary reported witnessing Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in a locker room.

Sandusky was found guilty on June 22 of 45 criminal counts relating to the assault of 10 boys over a 15-year period.

The Clery Tragedy

Before Jeanne’s death, there were no uniform laws mandating that colleges report crimes on campus to students, employees, potential students or their parents. The Clerys found that out afterward when they learned there had been 38 violent crimes on Lehigh’s campus in the three years before Jeanne’s murder.

“While it happened at Lehigh, what the Clerys quickly discovered was it could have happened at pretty much any university in the country,” said S. Daniel Carter, director of public policy for the Clerys’ non-profit advocacy group Security On Campus. “This is not something where Lehigh was out of the norm."

On April 5, 1986, a few days after returning from spring break her freshman year, Jeanne was asleep in her Stoughton Hall dorm about 6 a.m. when a student she didn’t know, Josoph M. Henry, entered the room intending to rob it. To get there, Henry had gone through three doors with automatic locks that had been propped open with boxes by students. Henry, who had been drinking all night, raped and strangled Jeanne after she woke up during his thieving. He was convicted of murder in April 1987 and sentenced to death.

After the initial shock of Jeanne’s murder, the Clerys began to speak out about the need for heightened security and reporting of campus crime. They sued Lehigh University for $25 million and settled out of court for an undisclosed amount and a pledge from the university to strengthen its security system.

The family used the settlement to launch their advocacy and education group, Security on Campus. When Mrs. Clery’s first efforts to lobby Congress for legislation went nowhere, she  enlisted the voices of other campus crime victims and their families to drive home the extent of the problem. “I pounded the halls of Congress,” she recalls.

In 1988, Pennsylvania enacted the first law requiring state colleges and universities to annually make public three years of crime statistics. Other laws followed, including the passage of the federal Campus Security Act that took effect on Aug. 1, 1991.

Later renamed the Jeanne Clery Act, the amended law requires all colleges and universities to publish an annual report detailing their security policies and three years of campus crime statistics for certain offenses. Institutions with police or security agencies must keep a public crime log and also give students and employees timely warnings of crimes that pose an ongoing threat. The U.S. Department of Education is required to collect and disseminate the crime statistics. The act affords sexual assault victims certain basic rights.

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