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‘Complete failure to protect students:’ Michigan State fined record $4.5M over Larry Nassar scandal

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University was fined a record $4.5 million in connection to the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said.

“What transpired at Michigan State was abhorrent, inexcusable, and a total and complete failure to follow the law and protect students,” DeVos said in a statement on Thursday, Sept. 5. “Michigan State will now pay for its failures and will be required to make meaningful changes to how it handles Title IX cases moving forward. No future student should have to endure what too many did because concerns about Larry Nassar and William Strampel were ignored.”

The fine stemmed from Michigan State University’s “systemic failure to protect students from sexual abuse,” the Department of Education said in a release. That $4.5 million total was “the largest Clery Act fine ever,” DeVos said, referring to the federal campus safety law.

The record fine came as part of a federal investigation into Michigan State’s failure to stop Nassar’s decades of child sexual abuse. Nassar, the once-acclaimed USA Gymnastics team doctor and Michigan State associate professor, pleaded guilty to charges of criminal sexual conduct and admitted to using his position as a trusted doctor to sexually abuse girls for decades.

At his sentencing hearings, more than 100 women came forward to testify about his abuse and how the institutions in charge — the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and MSU — ignored their complaints and otherwise failed to protect them.

In addition, Strampel, a former MSU dean and Nassar’s boss, was found guilty in June of misconduct in office and two counts of willful neglect of duty. The charges against Strampel stemmed from his actions as dean from 2002 to 2018, as well as his failure to properly oversee Nassar, according to court documents. He was sentenced to a year in jail in August.

The scandal led to charges against several top MSU officials and the resignations of two university presidents. In May 2018, MSU agreed to pay $500 million to settle lawsuits brought by 332 victims of Nassar.

DeVos spoke on a conference call Thursday with reporters announcing the conclusion of the Department’s Title IX and civil rights investigations into the university. She called the probes “focused, careful, and thorough.”

The Education Department said it concluded MSU did not properly disclose and collect campus crime statistics, issue warnings to the campus, and notify safety authorities.

In addition to the fine, MSU will be subject to a five-year period of special compliance monitoring and must provide accommodations such as counseling for victims, the department said.

“While the fine is important, of greatest importance to us is the long-term safety of every student,” said Mark Brown, the chief operating officer of the department’s Federal Student Aid program.

Kenneth Marcus, assistant secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, said, “We expect this message should be heard loudly and clearly” by other schools.

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