WASHINGTON - The United States Department of Education is investigating whether Penn State University failed to report incidents of sexual abuse on campus, as required by federal law, the department announced yesterday.

Colleges and universities must report the number of crimes on campus and provide warnings in a timely manner if safety is threatened.

A former Penn State assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, has been charged with molesting eight boys over the course of 15 years. Some of the abuse allegedly occurred in the university’s football complex.

Two university officials were arrested on charges of perjury and failing to notify authorities after being told about an incident. Tim Curley, the athletic director, and Gary Schultz, a vice president, have maintained they are innocent, as has Sandusky.


Curley was placed on administrative leave and Schultz stepped down from his post this week. The announcement by the federal agency comes the same day that the university’s longtime football coach, Joe Paterno, was removed by the school’s board of trustees. He is not a part of the criminal investigation. University president Graham Spanier also was fired by the trustees.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement that schools and school officials have a legal and moral responsibility to protect people from violence and abuse.

“If these allegations of sexual abuse are true, then this is a horrible tragedy for those young boys,’’ Duncan said. “If it turns out that some people at the school knew of the abuse and did nothing or covered it up, that makes it even worse.’’

The Office of Financial Aid is conducting the investigation. The Office of Civil Rights also is considering whether it should investigate.