Risk Management: Penn State, Syracuse University Sheds Light on Sexual Abuse Exposure at Schools

Our jaws dropped as revelations came to light regarding Penn State’s retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky’s alleged sexual molestation and child-sex crimes. On the heels of this disturbing news, Syracuse University fired associate head basketball coach Bernie Fine for allegedly molesting young boys.

Sandusky was charged with abusing eight boys over 15 years, sometimes on the Penn State campus. And on December 7th, County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick in the Fine case announced that he found that the two men who accused Fine of sexual abuse are credible, but that the crimes alleged are too old to be prosecuted.

In both cases, what has angered the public even more is that people were aware of the allegations and chose not to do anything about them. Now we’re seeing firings at both universities and a call for action not only from a legal standpoint but also in the way schools have addressed (or not addressed) this issue.

Part of what we do as insurance advisors and providers is to put in place the coverages educational institutions need in the event of a loss, including suits claiming abuse and molestation. What’s more, as part of the exposure analysis we conduct, we work with clients to implement solutions and strategies for risk avoidance, mitigation, and transfer. Together with you, the insurance agent, we put together programs that are designed to pinpoint problems and issues and address them immediately. This goes for exposures of sexual abuse and molestation.

Whether an incident involves sexual abuse, sexual harassment, or a dangerous condition in a facility, investigating allegations is critical to any program and a basic tenet of risk management. Everyone in the organization must take the allegations seriously and look into them. If an allegation is supported by sufficient evidence, the alleged offender should be relieved immediately of his/her position and referred to the appropriate medical evaluation and intervention. The school is also obligated to comply with civil law regarding the reporting of the incident and cooperation with the investigation. In addition, dealing with the community as openly as possible without compromising privacy issues is critical to the reputation and the trust an institution has built in the community.

Caitlin-Morgan works with agents to evaluate a client’s risk environment, assess their needs, and recommend improvements and sound risk management programs.