Lessons for Penn State: Cover-Ups Cost Money, Student Lives


Schools Know More About Sex Crimes Than Police

But David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, said more sex crimes are coming to the attention of authorities, particularly since strengthening of the Clery Act by the Obama administration.

"The message of virtually all education programs dealing with child maltreatment, bullying, dating violence and a host of other problems has been to 'tell someone and get help,'" said Finkelhor in a 2009 study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine this year.

But in cases of peer victimizations, date violence and date rape, school authorities often knew more than the police, according to the study.

"It's true there are many cases on campuses that don't get reported to the police, but I think this is an inherent feature about sex crimes and other kinds of intimate violence," said Finkelhor. "There is an inclination when it involves juveniles on juveniles not to think of these as crimes ... People think of college students as not fully adults [and] that can color administration's thinking about what is to be done -- that they are better handled here where the university is in loco parentis [in place of the parent]."

He agrees that there needs to be better collaboration and training between police and residents' assistants and counselors who deal with college students.

That might have saved Laura Dickinson, according to her father, who said officials should have done more to prevent their daughter's murder.

In a flashback when the Penn State scandal became public, he said he remembered a conversation with Connie Clery about her own daughter's murder.

"She and her husband were determined to right that wrong," he said. "A college campus should be a safe place for a student and when it's not, we have to fix that -- to clamp down on security."

"We have to make officials more accountable for their actions and the students themselves need to wake up," he said. "The consequences are costly."

EMU paid dearly for the cover-up and the Dickinsons eventually also won a $2.5 milliion civil lawsuit against the college.

"It's really hard to explain why there are cover-ups," said Dickinson. "The purpose and drive of an organization that does that is hard to comprehend."

"It's human nature," he said. "For lack of a better term, we do stupid things. Fortunately most time they get caught. It's hard to hide something like that. It goes on for a little, but the whole thing comes out in the end."

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