Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Penn State fined $2.4 million for its response to Jerry Sandusky case

Penn State University was notified Thursday it will be fined $2,397,500 by the U.S. Department of Education for failure to comply with the requirements of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

The sanctions come in connection to former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's conviction for the sexual abuse of 10 minors.

According to documents, Penn State failed to issue an emergency notification after senior university officials learned of the forthcoming charges against Sandusky.

A  former senior Penn State official told the Department's review teams there was an attempt to obtain keys to several school facilities from Sandusky in 2010, but he refused to relinquish his access. The university didn't try to retrieve the keys again until they changed the locks.

The review team determined that prior to Sandusky's indictment (Nov. 4, 2011), Penn State had ample evidence Sandusky posed a serious threat to the campus community.

The fine is the result of a five-year federal investigation into how Penn State handled complaints about Sandusky prior to his indictment.

Penn State has doled out more than $93 million in settlements connected to Sandusky's 32 accusers. The former assistant coach is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence for the sexual abuse of 10 minors.

The agency says Penn State largely ignored many of its duties under the Clery Act. It’s the largest fine issued under the law.

It says the school violated regulations when it didn’t warn students and employees of the forthcoming charges against Sandusky, who was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse.


Rolling Stone Defamation Conviction Reveals Danger of Dogma When Addressing Campus Sexual Assault

Unsafe On Any Campus? Former University of Virginia associate dean Nicole P. Eramo won her defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine, and the implications are significant. Successful defamation suits are rare in the U.S., in large part to protect the freedom of speech and press. I think, however, the jury verdict was correct in this case. Indeed, the verdict highlights the problem of what happens when an enormously complicated problem is shoeboxed into a simple storyline informed more by dogma than evidence.

In short, Rolling Stone published a story using the point of view of a woman who claimed she was gang raped at a UVA fraternity. The story began to fall apart rather rapidly as other journalists began investigating the victim’s claims, many of which appeared extreme on their face. The staff journalist failed to conduct her due diligence in verifying their truth, and criticized UVA administrators for failing to respond. (See a useful summary of how the story began to unravel by Robby Soave at Reason magazine here.)

Eramo was featured prominently in the article and, in the narrative, became the face of university intransigence, denial, and insensitivity. Eramo sued, and the jury found that the journalist and magazine, in the words of the New York Times (Nov 4, 2016), “acted with actual malice, a legal standard that means that the publication either knew the information published was false, or acted with reckless disregard for whether it was true or not.” I believe in this case the magazine acted in reckless disregard for the truth in order to fit an internal narrative supported by the magazine’s organizational culture.

Rolling Stone eventually retracted the article, but only after other journalists made it almost impossible for the editors to support the story (and its narrative) based on the facts. The idea that a gang rape could occur in a fraternity without consequence had become so embedded in the journalistic world view of the magazine that researching the veracity of the claims by the victim was given low priority, even to the point where inconsistencies and holes in the story didn’t have to be investigated.

The case is a welcome step toward accountability for some in the media who have accepted a narrative on campus rape that over simplifies a very complex problem and where solutions require layered and nuanced responses. For example, research suggests that most reported rapes are not false, with false reporting ranging from 2% to 10%. An uncritical journalist (or other advocate) could easily jump to the conclusion that the details of the claims made by victims are true, including the identity of the perpetrators and circumstances surrounding the event. But the nature of human trauma complicates this conclusion.

The trauma of rape and sexual assault is most often psychological. The offenses are often perpetrated in isolated places such as bedrooms, apartments, or dimly lit areas. Once the complications of alcohol and drug use are added to the psychological trauma, victims’ stories often have holes or inconsistencies that make successful prosecution or ironclad verification of specifics difficult. But, as I discuss extensively in Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It?, the lack of evidence necessary to secure conviction in a criminal trial does not mean the rape or assault didn’t happen, or that someone didn’t perpetrate severe harm, or that someone wasn’t traumatized by the experience. Rather, conventional institutions, including the criminal justice system, are inherently incapable of achieving justice and addressing the harm created in many campus rape situations. A more holistic approach that is trauma centered and recognizes the complicated nature of the problem (and solutions) is necessary (see here and here).

The Rolling Stone defamation case is likely to become a signature event in the campus rape policy discussion. Some may worry that the suit may stall their efforts. However, if the public discussion now shifts from simplistic solutions to more nuanced and comprehensive approaches, including those that focus on rebuilding civil society on campus, real progress might be made on containing and even eradicating this serious problem at many of our colleges and universities.


More than 1,000 British schools spy on pupils' web browsing: Campaigners say families are not told about software being used to monitor activity

More than 1,000 schools are now using snooping software that can spy on pupils as they work on their computers, privacy campaigners have warned.

The technology aims to protect children from grooming by extremists or accessing adult websites, but it is sometimes installed without the knowledge of families.

And concerns have been raised that there is a risk that monitoring and filtering of online content may go too far.

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information requests by civil liberties group Big Brother Watch show that of 1,420 secondary schools in England and Wales which provided data, 1,000 use the technology.

The classroom management software packages can be used by schools in a number of ways, such as to monitor pupils’ internet activity, access their web history, block websites and check what is being typed into a computer.

Around £2.5 million has been spent by these schools on this software, which was installed on a total of 821,386 computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones.

Out of these 1,000 schools, 149 - around one in six - provided acceptable use policies, and of these, 26 gave information about the type of software and how it was used.

A total of 123 did not give any further details beyond stating that students may be monitored when using computers.

In its report, Big Brother Watch said that schools often consider buying the software to keep pupils safe online, or as part of their duty to help protect children from radicalisation.

But it added: ‘We are concerned that the use of technology which allows real time monitoring is placing teachers unwittingly in the position of being Big Brother.

‘Forcing staff to oversee their pupils’ every digital move represents a fundamental shift from the traditional method of overseeing pupils by engaging with them from the front of the class.’

‘Schools currently offer little explanation about the use of the software in their acceptable use policies.

‘Pupils and parents, who have to sign such policies to say they agree to the use of the software, are therefore left completely in the dark.’

Renate Samson, chief executive of Big Brother Watch said: ‘Finding the balance between keeping pupils safe online without impinging on their right to privacy is a challenge for every school.

‘But encouraging schools to track and monitor pupils creates a worrying precedent, particularly if pupils and parents are being left in the dark.’

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘Computer monitoring software is used in schools to safeguard the welfare of children and young people by ensuring that they are not exposed to damaging online material.

‘There is no secrecy about the use of this sort of software in schools. Pupils are very much aware of rules about computer use and most schools have policies which are available to parents.’


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