Jan Murphy, Audits raise concern about child protection at youth camps on university campuses, Penn Live

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is stunned that the crimes of Jerry Sanduskyweren’t enough to prompt closer scrutiny of staff working youth at sports and academic camps held at East Stroudsburg and Clarion universities immediately after Sandusky’s child sexual assault allegations came to light in 2011.

DePasquale’s auditors discovered both State System of Higher Education schools failed to have proof that all employees and volunteers who had direct contact with children at the summer camps held on university property had obtained criminal background checks and child abuse clearances during audit periods that were as recent as 2013 or 2014.

“For college officials and camp organizers, there should be no higher priority than ensuring the safety and security of children attending summer camps,” DePasquale said. “As a parent, I am sure I’m not the only one who expects that universities hosting summer camps will obtain the appropriate background checks on workers associated with the camps.”

The release of the performance audits, which also touched on other aspects of university operations, comes just before a Thursday presentation to the system’s board about a pilot program launched two years ago to address the issue of child sexual victimization on college campuses.

The program, called “Circles of Safety for Higher Education,” was funded by Sue Paterno. This first-of-a-kind program offers training to prevent child sexual assaults, which began being offered on system campuses last April.

A spokeswoman for DePasquale said the timing of the release of the East Stroudsburg and Clarion performance audits prior to that presentation is coincidental.

Auditors found at East Stroudsburg none of a sample of 18 employees who came into contact with minors at university-sponsored campus had received a child abuse clearance or federal criminal background check. Three did not receive a state criminal background check.

The audit, which covered July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2013 with additional field work in 2014, also found that East Stroudsburg did not require outside groups to require their staff to obtain background checks and child abuse clearances until February 2014.

At Clarion, the audit, covering the time period between July 2011 through June 2013, found the university was missing 164 of 366 required background checks for student employees, outside temporary workers, temporary part-time instructors, and volunteers at university-sponsored camps; 53 of 87 background checks for regular, continuously-hired employees; and 3 of 26 background checks for workers at privately-sponsored camps.

In both instances, however, the auditors noted they found no evidence of crimes that would have prevented any of the individuals who staffed the camps from being eligible to be employed.

Further, the audits say both schools have taken steps to strengthen their policies dealing with background check requirements and comply with recent changes to thestate’s Child Protective Services Law that took effect on Dec. 31.

A spokeswoman for East Stroudsburg University noted that the school was and is in compliance with state child protection laws in effect at the time.

In its response to the auditors’ findings, university management said it did require criminal background checks as well as screen sex offender registries. It also is in the process of reviewing and updating its policies in this area and will continue to be proactive to provide a safe environment.

“The university takes great care to provide a safe environment for our students, employees and guests,” said spokeswoman Brenda Friday.

Clarion spokesman David Love offered a similar comment about that university’s efforts to ensure the safety of all who step foot on its campus. He pointed out that the auditor general recognized that in the audit by pointing out the university management has agreed to implement the auditors’ recommendations and is taking steps to ensure its compliance with the recent changes in the child protection law.

Recent audits released for other State System universities – namely, Cheyney, California and Edinboro – as well as the University of Pittsburgh also found indications that those schools also did not adequately ensure staff who worked at youth camps had the necessary background clearances.

Full article: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2015/04/audits_raise_concern_about_chi.html