Colleges and Universities: The Clery Act Is Getting Renewed Attention
Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered in her dorm room at Lehigh University in 1986. The horrific attack on the young woman was one of 38 violent crimes committed on the Lehigh campus in just three years. Had those crime statistics been disclosed, Ms. Clery’s parents say they would not have permitted their daughter to attend that school and be placed in harm’s way.
In 1990, four years after her brutal death, Congress passed the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act), requiring higher education institutions to accurately monitor and disclose campus crime statistics to current and prospective students and their families. Each violation of the Clery Act regulations may carry a fine of up to $54,789.
Until recently, actual fines levied after a Clery Act review ranged from $0 to $350,000. But in 2016, the Department of Education (ED) fined Penn State University almost $2.4 million for multiple violations related to the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. Because of this and the ongoing media attention given to campus rapes and other crimes, the Clery Act is in the spotlight again.
Your higher education institution’s compliance with these regulations could be scrutinized as part of an ED program review or as a separate Clery Act audit. You would be well advised to review the requirements and make sure your school is actively monitoring and accurately reporting campus crimes.
Clery Act requirements
The Clery Act requires all colleges and universities to:
- Classify crime reports, compile the data, and disclose the crime statistics
- Produce and actively distribute an annual security report (ASR) containing all required statistical and policy disclosures
- Submit crime statistics to the ED
- Issue timely warnings and emergency notifications to the campus community
A complete listing of all requirements may be found in the
ED’s Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting.
Common Clery Act findings
Because the Clery Act is part of the Higher Education Act, the ED’s Federal Student Aid Office enforces the regulations and reviews schools. Common Clery Act findings include:
- Out-of-date or inaccurate daily crime logs
- Incorrectly classified crime statistics
- Misunderstanding of “Clery geography” for the campus and where to report statistics
- Lack of appropriate missing student protocols or fire safety policies
- Missing classification of hate crimes, including the revisions regarding gender identity and perceived gender provided by the Violence Against Women Act in 2013
- Improper issuance of timely warnings and emergency notifications
A review by the ED may be initiated when a complaint is received, a media event raises certain concerns, the school’s independent audit identifies serious non-compliance, or when a federal review selection process coincides with state reviews.
The ED publishes all reports, findings, and communications (including notifications of noncompliance fines) for each Clery Act review it conducts. In addition, ED’s Campus Safety and Security Office summarizes all institutional campus safety data. An online tool allows users to compare data for multiple schools or generate trend data.
How we can help
Institutions vary with their response to the Clery Act requirements. Larger institutions with a dedicated campus safety department have broader needs than a smaller school without full-time safety personnel. CLA professionals with experience in higher education administration can help you develop and assess your current policies and procedures and identify areas at risk of noncompliance.