Saturday, June 23, 2012

Penn State Sandusky guilty verdict proves NCAA schools should not hire social media monitoring companies to spy on their student-athletes or employees

The Penn State sex scandal is the worst scandal that any NCAA athletic department has ever encountered. Late last night, a jury found Jerry Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator of Penn State's football team guilty of 45 of 48 counts of child sex abuse.

Jerry Sandusky is by far the worst monster to have ever coached at an NCAA school. My heart goes out to all of Sandusky's victims. According to published media reports, it appears that Penn State may have known that Sandusky was a sexual predator since at least 1998 when he was initially investigated by Penn State Police. Unfortunately, at that time nothing was done to stop this predator from having access to Penn State facilities with young boys.

Since at least 2002, the Penn State athletic department knew about allegations that Sandusky may have raped a young boy at its athletic facilities but did nothing to report him to law enforcement or to stop him from having access to its facilities. Since it appears that the athletic department knew or should have known that Sandusky may be committing multiple sexual abuse crimes on its campus it may have significant civil legal liability. Administrators who lied about their knowledge of Sandusky's alleged criminal activities when questioned by police may also have criminal legal liability. In addition to potentially having criminal legal liability for lying about their knowledge of Sandusky's then alleged criminal activities, Penn State and its employees may also have significant civil liability for Sandusky's on and off-campus activities since it appears that Penn State knew that Sandusky may be committing multiple sexual crimes and did nothing to stop him.

If Penn State wasn't informed about Sandusky's alleged sexual abuse of young boys it would be very difficult to prove that Penn State and/or any of its employees should be held liable for not stopping these terrible activities. However, since it appears that Penn State coaches, athletic department members, and members of the university administration knew or should have known that Sandusky may be committing major crimes on and off campus Penn State and some current and/or former employees may have significant legal liability.

The Virgina Tech case should have been a wake up call that NCAA schools should not require their student-athletes or employees to provide access to their password protected digital content and/or to turn over their social media usernames. Next, the lawsuit by the family of a University of Virginia lacrosse player who was murdered by another student-athlete should have been another wake up call that athletic departments must stop these practices. Now, the Penn State guilty verdict appears to prove that if a university and/or its employees want to avoid legal liability for the digital content of their student-athletes or employees they must not require students or employees to provide access to their password protected personal digital content.

On November 15, 2011, I stated, if Penn State was aware of Sandusky's alleged criminal activities and failed to stop him the school may have major legal liability issues to defend against. Since it appears that Penn State knew about Sandusky's criminal behavior the economic cost of this matter to Penn State may be north of $100 million dollars due to court costs, litigation expenses, attorney fees, investigation costs, judgements, settlements, reputation costs, etc... It is premature to determine how much of these costs the school's insurance companies will pay but there is already litigation regarding the matter.

The Penn State sex scandal once again proves that NCAA schools need to ensure that their social media policies do not create unintended legal liability. Compliance personnel, coaches, or university employees who require their student-athletes or employees to turn over their social media usernames, passwords, or to download social media monitoring software, or to use any other unethical or illegal method to obtain access to their students' or employees' personal password protected digital content may create millions of dollars of legal liability for their schools and/or themselves.

To learn more about these issues you may contact me at http://shearlaw.com.

Copyright 2011 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.