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July 26, 2012

Administrators discuss policies in place to report suspected child and sexual abuse

Purdue administrators reiterated the importance of reporting sexual abuse and outlined protocol in place for university employees.

Acting President Timothy Sands, Athletics Director Morgan Burke, and Vice President for Ethics and Compliance Alysa Rollock spoke Monday (July 23), the same day the NCAA released penalties imposed on Penn State due to its sexual abuse scandal and subsequent handling of the matter as detailed in the Freeh Report.

"I think everybody has a very similar reaction," Sands said. "Your thoughts immediately go to the children, the young individuals who were the real victims. I think everybody is still focused on the victims. We haven’t heard the end of that, and they are not out of our minds."

Sands said the university is reviewing the Freeh Report and its recommendations to learn from the Penn State incident.

Purdue administrators outlined protocol in place to handle the reporting of suspected child and sexual abuse.

"When the arrest and indictment of (former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky) first occurred (former) President France Córdova called together the leadership of the university and we discussed what we're currently doing, in particular to protect children," Rollock said. "We also looked at areas where we felt there are gaps and where we could improve our process."

Purdue has developed and implemented an online training program that teaches how to identify, prevent and respond to sexual misconduct in various educational settings. The training is available online to all employees at http://www.purdue.edu/ethics/education_training.html

Special measures have been taken to ensure every employee will have access to the program – whether or not they have access to a computer as part of their job responsibilities. To date, more than 280 service staff in physical facilities without access to computers have completed the training, Rollock said.

Purdue already requires a background check on all new employees. A similar, interim process has been implemented for volunteers.

"The policy requires that all volunteers be checked against both the national and state violent and sex offender registries," Rollock said, noting the policy was implemented in July. "We looked at all aspects of our volunteers."

More on the interim volunteer policy can be found at http://www.purdue.edu/policies/human-resources/vib2.html

Burke said all outside coaches and student-athletes involved in summer camps go through two background checks before participating.

"We have a responsibility to safeguard everyone, whether it's our student-athletes or the tens of thousands of people that come to our events annually," Burke said.

Sands sent all staff and faculty a letter on July 20 to outline policies and reinforce processes already in place.

"As a reminder, under Indiana Law, all adults are obligated to report suspected child abuse or neglect," Sands wrote in the email. "If you are a witness to questionable activity, you must act immediately."

If any Purdue employee is witness to suspected child abuse, they should call 911 if it's an emergency.

If it is not an emergency, the employee should alert a senior staff member and call local police, campus police or Child Protective Services at 1-800-800-5556.

Purdue also offers a Whistleblower hotline (or 1-866-818-2620) where any potential criminal activity can be reported anonymously.

"We want to have multiple avenues for people to report whatever wrongdoing they may suspect is occurring," Rollock said.

While the protocol in place can't fully prevent a negative situation, the hope is to make sure proper steps would be taken if such an incident occurred.

"We're hoping that those who have been educated on our policies and procedures can implement these steps and take a positive action," Rollock said.

Burke was asked how he thought Penn State's football team would be treated by fans when visiting Purdue for a Nov. 3 game.

"I think the Purdue culture is one that is a respective culture," Burke said. "I think our students and fans will be wise enough to realize that the young men playing in that game had nothing to do with that situation. Ours is a culture that does respect people."

Writer: Brian Peloza, bpeloza@purdue.edu