17 July 2012

Scaling up: Allentown School District versus Penn State

The Allentown (Penna.) School District has settled a lawsuit by agreeing to pay $825,000 to 4 plaintiffs who alleged that a 12-year-old boy sexually assaulted them at school, by getting them alone in bathrooms and then attacking them. The lawsuit asserts that the school's response to complaints about the boy, who leaders at the school knew had a troubled history, was "wholly inadequate" (WPVI-TV).

How much does that kind of settlement translate to the Penn State situation, where a predator with a known troubled history assaulted victims in bathrooms (Harrisburg Patriot-News)? How should it scale? Keep in mind that Jerry Sandusky was some 40 years older than his victims; his victims numbered 10 (at a minimum; that was the number in the criminal case); and Sandusky's rapes took place over years, if not decades, while the Allentown assaults spanned only a few months (PDF, p. 2).

The Allentown School District had an operating budget surplus of some $10 million in FY 2010-11 (PDF, see the school district's Finance Reports page); and its FY 2011-12 operating budget contemplates revenues of nearly $260 million (PDF). As I've mentioned before, Penn State has an endowment of over $1.5 billion (PDF); and its proposed FY 2012-13 operating budget contemplates general funds income of nearly $2 billion (PDF, see Schedules I and III).

How much should Penn State pay Sandusky's victims? How should Penn State scale up the Allentown School District's $825,000 for 4 victims to Sandusky's 10? Should it matter that there's a distinguishing factor here, that is, that the perpetrator in Allentown was another minor student, whereas Sandusky was an adult employee, or at least a colleague? Because that said, both institutions were mandatory reporters, whether literally or through the Clery Act, and both failed miserably in their legal duties -- not to mention their moral duties.

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