Safety & Security (Prepare and Be Aware)

Complying With the Clery Act

Clery Act 

SHUTTERSTOCK © JOY BROWN

Four months after Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Pennsylvania State University, was charged with sexually assaulting boys on and off campus, Gabriel Gates arrived in State College to help the university improve its compliance with the Clery Act.

Since his appointment in 2013 as the university’s first Clery Act compliance coordinator, Gates has orchestrated a fundamental shift in how crimes are reported at the 23-campus university. While documenting crime was once the sole responsibility of the campus police, Gates has identified more than 3,000 employees, ranging from club advisors to assistant coaches, who are required by the Clery Act to report crimes and undergo annual training.

“Penn State was kind of beat up a little about having officers do Clery compliance instead of someone dedicated to doing it,” Gates says. “Still today, the vast majority of institutions are doing their Clery compliance with an officer or security administrator.”

Changes in complying with the Clery Act, a federal law enacted in 1990, have not only occurred at Penn State. Across the country, higher educational institutions are modifying their crime reporting procedures and crime prevention programming because of an amendment to the law signed by President Obama this past March.

Keeping an Eye on the Changes

As part of the reauthorized Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), colleges and universities must now expand their reporting of crime statistics to include incidents of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. Institutions must also create educational prevention and awareness programs that address these issues for all incoming students and new employees.

The Jeanne Clery Act was named for a 19-year-old student who was raped and murdered in her dorm room at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania in 1986. Following the crime her parents, Connie and Howard Clery, advocated for legislation to be passed because they were shocked by the lack of information provided to students and families about crimes on campuses and the inadequate warnings about those incidents.

Originally known as the Campus Security Act, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (20 USC § 1092(f)) requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose their security policies, maintain a public crime log, publish an annual crime report and provide timely warnings to campus communities about a crime presenting an immediate or ongoing threat. The law is tied to an institution’s participation in federal student financial aid programs and it applies to most institutions of higher education, both public and private.

The Act is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education. The law was amended in 1992 to add a requirement that schools afford the victims of campus sexual assault certain basic rights, and was amended again in 1998 to expand the reporting requirements. The 1998 amendments also formally named the law in memory of Jeanne Clery. Subsequent amendments in 2000 and 2008 added provisions dealing with registered sex offender notification and campus emergency response.

Following the Virginia Tech massacre, the 2008 amendment expanded the emergency response and notification requirements, bringing weather events and active shooter incidents under the law. The 2008 amendments also added a provision to protect crime victims, “whistleblowers” and others from retaliation.

As the law has evolved, institutions have not only adjusted to the new requirements, but they have also changed their approach to following the basic intent of the legislation, says Steven J. Healy, managing partner of Margolis Healy & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in campus safety, security and regulatory compliance.

Expanding and Sharing Responsibility

“When the Clery Act was first passed, it was seen as the university police’s or public safety office’s responsibility, when in fact it’s the institution’s responsibility from many different offices across the university,” Healy says. “The best practice for developing a strong compliance program is having different offices cooperate and not having the responsibility placed on one office.”

After Sandusky was arrested in November 2011, Penn State hired Margolis Healy to review the university’s Clery Act compliance program. Among the firm’s recommendations was that Penn State hire a Clery Act compliance coordinator to insure that crime reporting and timely warnings were being put in place throughout the system’s branch campuses.

When universities beef up their Clery compliance efforts, the increased focus often results in a rise in crime statistics on
campus. That is what happened at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as a result of a multifaceted program to help victims of sexual assault come forward to file crime reports.

“In a sense, the higher numbers are almost something to be proud of because we have that culture of reporting, and that’s what we want,” says Nancy Greenstein, director of police and community services at UCLA. “It means we’re dealing with the issue and it shows that students are getting care.”

While documenting sexual assaults is required under the Clery Act, the reporting serves another critical purpose — helping victims process the crime. “It’s very important for the victim,” Greenstein says. “If they don’t tell anybody, it can affect their class work and their social life. It can have a long-term effect.”

The amendment requiring institutions to collect statistics on stalking and domestic and dating violence does not take effect until the spring of 2014, but colleges and universities are already gearing up to comply with the new regulations.

Training RAs and Peer Mentors

Cleary ActAt Rollins College in Winter Park, FL, peer mentors and resident assistants arriving on campus in August will receive two days of training on topics such as bystander interventions, hazing and Clery Act compliance. While in previous years these sessions typically lasted an hour, the new training being launched this summer is scheduled for 12 hours.

“Although everyone receives some level of training, the RAs and peer mentors are more likely in our eyes to have some student come to them to say something happened,” says Ken Miller, the college’s director of campus safety. “We want them to understand what their responsibilities are to report to the appropriate party, and we only have so much time and so many dollars to impact the most number of people. To have the training for the peer mentors and the RAs makes the most sense.”

While it is difficult to determine whether the Clery Act has reduced crime on campus, the law has made students and their parents more aware of security issues on college and university campuses, says Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center for Security on Campus (www.clerycenter.org), a nonprofit organization based in Wayne, PA.

“As with any law, there are certain challenges,” Kiss says. “I know a lot of campuses will struggle with how to train members of their campuses in terms of how to report crime. However, I think the Clery Act has helped to provide guidance for colleges and universities in terms of how to respond to mitigate risk and how to contribute to a safe campus environment.”

This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of College Planning & Management.

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