What Is the Clery Act?
- The Clery Act honors university student Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered in 1986.
- The Clery Act ensures that postsecondary schools maintain transparency when reporting crimes.
- Schools that violate the Clery Act can receive fines and lose federal funding.
Higher education has made significant strides in combating criminal acts and making college campuses safer for all. However, campus crime remains inevitable.
Since the passing of the 1990 Clery Act, institutions must report crimes and maintain accessible logs of criminal activity, be transparent about their records, and take steps to ensure campus safety. This article reviews the history of the Clery Act and summarizes its requirements.
A Brief History of the Clery Act
Jeanne Clery attended Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and was the victim of sexual assault and murder in 1986. In the three years before Clery's attack, Lehigh University experienced 38 violent events. However, the school failed to report them through public records.
Clery's parents sued the university, claiming their daughter would never have enrolled if she had known about those criminal incidents. In 1990, Congress passed the Clery Act in honor of Jeanne Clery. The statute mandates that all postsecondary institutions keep updated and detailed crime statistics and maintain an active emergency alert system.
What Crimes Are Covered Under the Clery Act?
As a stipulation of the Clery Act, colleges and universities must provide detailed information on crimes belonging to four distinct categories: arrests and referrals for disciplinary action, criminal offenses, hate crimes, and Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) offenses. These are further outlined below.
In addition to the Clery Act, postsecondary institutions that receive Title IV funding must comply with Title IX, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. These laws address policies regarding campus violence and crime reporting. School officials should know where and how these laws overlap with the Clery Act.
Arrests and Referrals for Disciplinary Action
- Weapons law violations
- Drug abuse violations
- Liquor law violations
- Criminal homicide: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, manslaughter by negligence
- Sexual assault: rape, fondling, incest, statutory rape
- Aggravated assault
- Motor vehicle theft
- Simple assault
- Destruction/damage/vandalism of property
- Domestic violence
- Dating violence
Clery Act Requirements
The Clery Act is a consumer protection law that ensures schools' transparency in enacting crime-related policies and reporting statistics on criminal behavior. All U.S. universities and colleges receiving Title IV funding must comply with this federal statute. They must comprehend all components of the law, understand their responsibilities, take steps to ensure safety on campus, and know the penalties for noncompliance.
Annual Security Report
U.S. postsecondary institutions that receive federal funding must publish an annual security report (ASR) by October 1 of each year. They must make the report available to all current and future students and employees. The ASR details incidents of crimes included in Clery Act reporting — arrests and referrals for disciplinary action, criminal offenses, hate crimes, and VAWA offenses — and covers the previous three calendar years.
ASRs must also disclose information about campus alcohol and drug use, responses to and prevention of all forms of dating violence, crime reporting policies, law enforcement structure, and campus security procedures.
Timely Warnings and Emergency Notifications
The Clery Act requires institutions to generate and carry out a plan for reporting crimes covered by the ASR. The plan must also include a timely process for handling cases of missing students.
Additionally, campus leaders need to determine if a reported crime constitutes an ongoing threat and warrants sending an immediate warning out to students and employees. In the presence of imminent danger to individuals on campus, officials must put out an emergency notice, which may cover the entire campus or specific areas under threat.
Crime Log and Statistics
Campus police departments must keep a daily log of reported crimes occurring within their jurisdiction. Records must include the date, time, location, and nature of each crime, and logs must remain accessible to the public during business hours. Campuses must also keep an annual fire safety report, which applies to on-campus housing.
Crime statistics must cite incidents that occur on and adjacent to campus and in all student housing centers. Clery Act reporting also applies to off-campus facilities that the school and sponsored organizations own or operate.
Victims' Rights, Options, and Resources
The Clery Act affords victims of dating and domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking a written description of their legal rights. Victims may opt for housing and transportation changes. They also gain access to law enforcement notification, counseling, and legal assistance.
Additional options include requesting a disciplinary hearing facilitated by trained individuals or panels. Accusers and accused individuals must receive fair treatment during these impartial and timely disciplinary proceedings.
The Clery Act also mandates that schools provide education and training to all students and employees that center on crime awareness and prevention. Institutions must provide introductory and continuing education and training.
Clery Act Violations
Failure to comply with the Clery Act leads to fines, suspension of federal funding, and revocation of federal student aid eligibility. Noncompliant schools can receive a fine of over $59,000 per violation.
Noncompliance with the Clery Act tarnishes a school's reputation, deprives institutions of federal aid, and — most importantly — jeopardizes the safety of students and staff. One of the most well-known Clery Act violations occurred at Michigan State University. The school failed to report and investigate sexual abuse accusations against sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar, which occurred over several years.
After Nassar's 2017 sentencing, Michigan State University received a court order to pay a $4.5 million fine to the U.S. Department of Education. The school also had to hire a Clery Act compliance officer and formulate and carry out a corrective action plan. Michigan State agreed to pay $500 million to Nassar's victims, including many Olympic and other student-athletes.
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