In the wake of the Penn State sexual abuse cover-up scandal, state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) is renewing his call for passage of a bill that would require New York colleges and universities to report on-campus violent crimes immediately to the authorities.
“The recent scandal at Penn State University involving legendary football Coach Joe Paterno highlights a serious problem that needs to be addressed in New York state,” said the assemblyman.
Earlier this month, a former assistant coach for the Penn State football team was arrested on charges of sexually abusing young boys, in some instances on the university campus. Paterno learned of the allegation of the abuse in 2002 and reported it to school officials, though the matter was never reported to the authorities.
Two top university officials were also arrested and charged with failing to report the information to the authorities, as required by Pennsylvania state law, the New York Times reported.
“Currently, there is no mechanism in [New York] law to mandate that colleges and universities notify local authorities when informed about violent crimes committed on campus,” Braunstein said. “Absent this requirement, many colleges and universities frequently attempt to ‘handle’ these incidents in-house out of fear that contacting the police would generate negative publicity for the school.”
Earlier this year, the assemblyman introduced a bill that would require colleges and universities in the state to alert authorities within 24 hours of learning of a violent felony on campus.
“All too frequently we hear stories about on-campus crimes, often sexual in nature, that are swept under the rug by colleges in an effort to protect their reputation,” he said. “This creates a system where criminals are not held accountable for their actions and parents are not given the facts about the safety of the school where they choose to send their children.
“The statistics indicate that one in five college females are the victims of actual or attempted sexual assault and a shocking 95 percent of these cases go unreported. The deplorable actions of Penn State’s administration are far too common and we cannot accept similar behavior here in New York,” he said.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), the ranking minority member and former chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, said the bill is timely and necessary.
“What happened at Penn State is a horrible abuse of trust by an authority figure,” she said. “This crime should have been reported promptly to the police.”
“Our bill would require such crimes to be reported to the police within 24 hours. This type of incident could have happened anywhere, especially in an environment where sports trumps academics,” said the senator.